The origins of North Korean cuisine
So, I think we can all agree that today North and South Korea are very much different places, but this goes much deeper than the Korean war and their separation on the 38th parallel.
North Korea tends to be a far more mountainous place than south Korea, and overall colder than its southern neighbor, both of which have heavily influenced what crops can be grown in the country, cooking practices and availability of meat.
Other geographical influences have also played a big part in how North Korean cuisine has progressed, with much of North Korea often under the control of foreign powers, such as the frequently invading armies of Genghis Khan, the Chinese, and even the Manchus. Believe it, or not it is Mongols we have to thank for the joy that is Soju, although more on that later.
Therefore although North Korean cuisine is part of the wider Korean Cuisine spectrum it has also has heavy influence from southern Manchurian, and North-Eastern Chinese cuisine.
The Culinary Division of Korea
Following the division of Korea and the Korean war, many families moved either from north to south or south to north, which ended up making both cuisines much more blended. Many formerly North Korean foods are now enjoyed as staples in the south, and visa-versa, you can even buy Pyongyang cold noodles in Seoul!
That being said both countries have taken huge influences from their colonial overlords, with sushi, and sashimi being prevalent and popular in both North, and South Korea, Chinese based dishes having more prominence in the north and South Korea having weird fusion dishes like Army Stew.
Same, same but different
Therefore there are certain classic staples like kimchi, bulgogi, buckwheat cold noodles, and soju that exist on both sides of the border, but have three subtle differences.
The overall consensus tends to be that North Korean food tends to be slightly less spicy than in the south, with some describing it as sourer and generally more flavoursome. It is also worth factoring in that in North Korea much less food is mass produced than in the south. This makes everything from kimchi, to noodles and soju much more raw, flavorsome fresh, and dare we say more homemade than in the south.
And that is the history of the cuisine of North Korea as per the Street Food Guy!