Korean seaweed soup (miyuk gook) is known as the birthday soup. That's because it's traditionally given to new mothers as they're recovering from childbirth.
Why is this the tradition? Well, the soup contains plentiful calcium and iodine, two nutrients that are especially important to nursing mothers in the post-partum period. Many Koreans eat the soup during pregnancy, too, since it's regarded as healthy for both mother and unborn baby.
In another Korean tradition, those celebrating a birthday also eat miyuk gook, in this case with rice cakes. As birthday food, Korean seaweed soup honors the birthday person's mother and the sacrifices she made.
However, Korean seaweed soup isn't just for birthdays. It's actually a common soup in Korean households, and it's not unusual to see it on the menu for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any time of year. It's also one of the few Korean soups that isn't spicy at all, so it's perfect for someone who enjoys Korean cuisine but who doesn't react well to fiery hot dishes.
Korean seaweed soup uses a different type of seaweed than sushi rolls and kimbap, which use roasted sushi sheets. The seaweed in this soup is tangled dried brown seaweed known as miyuk or sea mustard. Once you find the right seaweed, the other ingredients are ones you probably have in your pantry.
Naturally low in calories and fat and high in calcium, iron, and protein, this is a light and healthy soup good for any meal of the day. Serve it with steamed rice.
- Rehydrate the seaweed by placing in a large bowl and covering with water for 30 minutes. (Note: 1 ounce of dried seaweed looks very small, but it rehydrates to about 2 cups)
- Drain the seaweed, squeeze out excess water, and cut into 2-inch pieces.
- In a soup pot over medium heat, sauté the seaweed in sesame oil for 2 minutes.
- Add garlic and soy sauce and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Pour stock into the pot and turn heat to high.
- When soup begins to boil, turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the soup looks milky.
Beef or anchovy stock works well. Vegetarians can use 1 1/12 cups vegetable stock and 1 1/2 cups of water instead.