Inter-Korea summit shines spotlight on Kobe's Pyongyang noodles

PHOTO: The Japan News/Asia News Network

KOBE - A Kobe restaurant that serves Pyongyang-style cold noodles has been in the spotlight since the inter-Korean summit meeting in April, when the dish appeared on the banquet menu.

As part of recent historical summit talks involving the leaders of North Korea, South Korea and the United States, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met South Korean President Moon Jae In on April 27. Kim brought cold noodles from Pyongyang to be served at the banquet, drawing attention to Ganso Pyongyang Reimenya Honten in Kobe's Nagata Ward, an old restaurant known to be the first to serve the Pyongyang-style cold noodles in Japan.

Restaurant owner and third-generation ethnic Korean resident Chang Su Song said, "I hope the flavor of the noodles will lead to deepened mutual understating."

The restaurant was founded in 1939 by his grandfather, who came to Japan from Pyongyang. Chang currently runs two other chain restaurants in the ward.

Cold noodles are a popular dish on the Korean Peninsula. In South Korea, cold noodles made from wheat flour with chicken stock are available, whereas the Pyongyang style is served with chewy buckwheat-based noodles with beef-broth soup and the juices from dongchimi water kimchi, which features fermented radish.

Its light, sour flavor is different from the taste of Morioka reimen, Japanese-style cold noodles mainly made from starch and wheat flour.

Chang, 65, took over the restaurant in his early 30s. His father's death prompted him to leave his job at a trading company in Tokyo and return to Kobe.

The restaurant was completely destroyed in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, but Chang resumed business at a temporary location, encouraged by the support of regular customers. Nine years later, he reopened the restaurant in the place where it stood prior to the disaster.

The restaurant was in the spotlight following the April 27 inter-Korean summit talks, during which Kim said he had made the effort to deliver cold noodles from Pyongyang.

This Pyongyang-style cold noodle dish is served at Ganso Pyongyang Reimenya Honten, a restaurant in Nagata Ward, Kobe.Photo: The Japan News/Asia News Network

Following the media coverage showing the two leaders eating the cold noodles together, the dish gained fad-like popularity in South Korea.

His restaurant, usually driven by regulars, started having an unprecedented line of customers, including young women who took pictures to post on Twitter. They also did an interview with a South Korean broadcaster.

"There are no borders for food. If people get to know about North Korea through its cold noodles, it can also cultivate mutual understanding," Chang said. "I hope the leaders of Japan and North Korea will eat the noodles together and bring about a peaceful resolution.

When Trump met Kim: A Singapore story

  • Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.
  • It was a meeting many would have thought unimaginable just months ago.
  • The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.
  • Prior to the meeting held at Capella Hotel in Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, Trump had said that he would know "within the first minute", whether any agreement would be possible.
  • The watching world is not sure if it's the start of a beautiful, budding "bromance", but here's a look at how the world's most talked-about first date unfolded.
  • Their handshake reportedly lasted for 12 long seconds (though still 7 seconds shorter than his memorable handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe).
  • Trump also reached out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.
  • According to a body language expert Karen Leong, the first 60 seconds showed both leaders seeking to take charge in their encounter. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command. "Their handshake seems to be between peers," she said.
  • "Trump seemed to be very aware of this, that he needed to up the stakes and be seen that he is the leader."
  • Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.
  • Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.
  • The US President, who is more than twice Kim's age, then appeared to lead the way to the library where they held a one-on-one meeting, placing his hand on the North Korean leader's counterpart's back.
  • Kim also patted the US president' arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter, said Leong.
  • The leaders appeared to share a few light-hearted moments as they walked down a corridor to the hotel's library.
  • However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.
  • As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim.
  • Mr Kim then said through a translator: “The way to come to here was not easy.The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”
  • After their closed door one-on-one talks, the pair continued with explanded bilateral talks with their delegation. Trump was flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.
  • Sitting across the table from the US team were North Korean leader Kim, Kim Yong-chol, first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Su-yong, Workers’ Party vice chairman on international affairs.
  • Thereafter, the two leaders attended a working lunch with their respective delegations at Capella Hotel.
  • On the lunch menu: Main courses include beef short rib confit, served with potato dauphinois and steamed broccoli; sweet and sour crispy pork and fried rice with an "XO" chilli sauce as well as a Korean dish called "daegu jorim", which is a soy braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.
  • Post-lunch, Kim and Trump then went for a leisurely stroll around the hotel grounds.
  • He also said talks had gone "better than anybody could have expected", and indicated that they were heading for a "signing", but did not divulge any details of the agreement.
  • During their walk, Trump unexpectedly gave Kim a peek into his super limo, nicknamed "The Beast".
  • But they did not get to hop on to go for a joyride, as commentators had hoped.
  • The pair met to sign an agreement, details of which were not revealed during the signing. Trump said: "We're signing a very important document, pretty comprehensive document, and we've had a really great time together, a great relationship... More will be discussed at a press conference soon."
  • When asked what he learnt about Kim, Trump said that he is "a very talented man", and that "he loves his country very much".
  • Mr Trump also described Mr Kim as a "very worthy, very smart negotiator".
  • According to sources after the signing, the two leaders pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.
  • The signatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".
  • Kim places a hand on Trump's back as they leave the room after the signing.
  • After the signing, the pair walked out for another round of photo-taking.
  • Reports say Mr Kim departed Singapore on a chartered Air China flight at 11.20pm and midnight on Tuesday, while Trump left on Air Force One earlier at 6.25pm.
  • At 4pm, Trump held a press conference on the summit outcome and details on the agreement signed.
  • "We signed a joint statement that is an unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of North Korea," he says.
  • The Capella Hotel on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, provided the backdrop for the historic summit.
  • Trump's motorcade arriving at Sentosa on Tuesday (June 12) morning.
  • Setting the stage ready for the handshake that will be seen across the world.

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