North Korea claims Kim Jong-il invented burritos in 2011 as street food ‘booms

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North Korea has made the bizarre claim that it invented burritos as trade of the street food “booms” in Pyongyang.

The Tex-Mex dish recently made a TV appearance as part of a propaganda broadcast, where it was described as a “wheat wrap”.

According to the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the food was originally invented in 2011 by Kim Jong-un's dad Kim Jong-il shortly before his death.

The report added that Kim Jong-un, also takes a “meticulous interest” in the foodstuff, whose popularity is “booming” in the reclusive dictatorship.

In newsreel footage, North Koreans can be seen devouring the burritos at a stand outside the Kumsong Food Factory in the country's capital city Pyongyang.

The broadcast also showed a mural of Kim Jong-il grinning in a kitchen where burritos were being prepared.

This isn't the first bizarre claim that North Korea has made over the years.

One of the strangest claim being that the country's leaders did not defecate.

The East Asian country also claims that none of its citizens have disabilities, but the authoritarian government has long been rumoured to dispose of those individuals.

North Korea then insisted it discovered unicorns, with the Korean Central News Agency breaking the story of how researchers had discovered a real-life unicorn lair in 2012.

And Kim Jong-il claimed to hit 11 holes in one in his very first round of golf in 1994.

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However, those who have escaped the secretive state insist that burritos are virtually non-existent there.

Hyun-seung Lee, who was born into an elite North Korean family but fled the country in 2014 and now lives in the US, said most of his countrymen couldn’t even dream of such a meal.

He said: “This is because they are not even given an opportunity to encounter it. The majority of citizens do not have money to buy the foreign food.

“Even if they have money, there is no place to eat it. In the 1990s, bread and butter lovers were satirised and criticised as socialist traitors.“

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In many cases, he added, there simply weren’t the ingredients to recreate foreign foods.

He said: “I have never seen any burritos or wraps on sale in North Korea. Perhaps there were no restaurants where you can eat burritos and wraps until now.

“The penetration rate of Western food in North Korea is extremely low, because there are very few restaurants where you can eat it and the food ingredients are not diverse. Various cooking ingredients such as milk, cheese, and spices are absolutely lacking.”

He added that hamburgers and pizza had only emerged in “fancy restaurants” in Pyongyang in the past decade.

Before then, he said, the only foreign foods he had tasted were Japanese.

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The modern burrito was actually invented in Mexico sometime in the 19th century.

Some differences between the North Korean burrito and the western version are immediately obvious.

The Pyongyang version seems to feature some kind of doner meat, with what appears to be a mix of cabbage and carrot.

Kim Jong-il advised that the “wheat wraps” are best accompanied by mineral water in the summer and hot tea in the winter, the Rodong Sinmun added.

Rowan Beard, a guide with Young Pioneer Tours – which specialises in organising North Korea trips – said he had not encountered the dish in Pyongyang.

North Korea’s borders have been shut to foreign visitors since January 2020 to protect against Covid-19.

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Beard said: “It’s the first time for me to see doner meat and those particular grilling machines in North Korea.

“I’ve never had a burrito or a wrap there before. It looks pretty good! I will certainly give that a chance once North Korea reopens for tourists.”

He said he had found western food “fairly common” within Pyongyang, but agreed it was uncommon elsewhere.

He explained: “Spaghetti, French fries or a hamburger can be found on certain menus at restaurants sprawled around the capital. However, not so much outside of Pyongyang.”

  • North Korea Dprk
  • Food
  • Kim Jong Un

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