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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pyongyang Soondae offers North Korean cuisine

If you’re interested in a more adventurous dining experience, check out Pyongyang Soondae, a North Korean restaurant at 6499 Little River Turnpike in Lincolnia, just east of Annandale. 
Soondae, Pyongyang style

Diners at Pyongyang Soondae, also known as Hermit Kitchen, are served the ubiquitous small plates, banchan, with kimchee, pickled radishes, and other tidbits like you’ll find at other Korean restaurants.

But you’ll also find some unusual dishes here. Soondae means sausage, and the featured dish is a form of blood sausage called soondae PyungYang style, which is made of pork, rice noodles, onion, garlic, chili, and chives—and is actually tastier than it sounds or looks. A huge plateful, which serves as an appetizer for a large group, is $13.99.

Barbequed duck
Among the specialties are a barbecued duck and vegetable dish ($25.99) for two. The ring-necked pheasant dumplings ($8.99) were quite good, as were the seafood pancakes ($12.99). There’s also stir-fried spicy Korean sausage with vegetables ($21.99), several kinds of soup, and other items. We were served watermelon slices for desert.

Ma Young-Ae (in front with red
apron and black shirt with
employees and guests.
There are very few North Korean refugees in the United, and several of them work at Pyongyang Soondae, which opened last fall but still has a sign out front with the name of the previous restaurant at that spot.

The fascinating life of the owner, Ma Young-Ae, was described in a lengthy article in the Washington City Paper in March.  She had been an undercover agent busting drug smugglers for North Korea’s Ministry of Public Security years, and after running afoul of the government, escaped to China. After securing asylum in the United States, she became a political activist, lobbying against the North Korean government.

Ma is also an accomplished musician (on piano, accordion, and yanggeum) and will perform at the upcoming Asian Festival, which takes place July 23-24 at George Mason University in Fairfax.

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