Eight-course feast of dog "sweet meat" in Pyongyang

Tue Nov 25, 2008 11:05pm EST
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By Jack Kim

PYONGYANG (Reuters Life!) - "Let's see by a show of hands, who won't be having sweet meat? Five? We're going then."

With that quick vote, it was decided that a delegation of 21 South Koreans visiting Pyongyang this month for a conference would be having an extravagant lunch where every one of the eight courses would be a dog meat delicacy.

"A once-in-a-lifetime experience!" a North Korean official chaperoning the group said enthusiastically.

While South Korea, mindful of its overseas image and the criticism attached in the West to eating dogs, has made the practice more discreet and better regulated, isolated North Korea attaches no public stigma to consuming the meat.

Dog meat restaurants in the South are usually back-alley fare catering to middle-aged men. In the North, dog meat has become a celebrated part of the culture served at its best dining halls to the few in the impoverished state who can afford it.

Dog meat is eaten in other countries in Asia, including Vietnam. In South Korea, "boshin-tang" which translates as "health preserving soup" is usually braised meat, stewed in a spicy broth and served with steamed rice. But marinated ribs, as found in North Korea, are rare.

In the North's capital, the recipe calls for less spice, presumably to highlight the natural flavor of the ingredients, and a variety of cuts are served for a leisurely meal accompanied by rice wine.

Defectors in the South said Korean cuisine, which varies according to region, undergoes further change in the North because there is less money for elaborate spices and ingredients. This means food is simpler in the North, the taste is lighter and little is wasted.   Continued...