If you are a Korean drama or variety show fanatic, it’s a guarantee that you’ve heard of Koreans preparing seaweed soups during birthday celebrations. Haven’t you ever wonder why Koreans traditionally serve this type of soup during their special day that they even do that abroad!
Miyeokguk (미역국), 미역/miyeok means seaweed and 국/guk means soup was originally eaten by Korean mothers while they carry their babies in their womb or even after birth to produce healthier milk for breastfeeding. It helps in nourishing the baby as it contains lots of calcium, iodine, fiber, omega acids, vitamin B1 & B3. In fact, it is the leading postpartum food for mothers in Korea. It also helps the mother in replenishing the huge amount of blood loss during child birth.
This type of soup helps in the metabolism process, purifies blood, detoxifies and relives constipation. The tradition of eating seaweed soup during birthday celebrations, which started during the Goryeo dynasty, is believed to originate when people observed that whales who just gave birth eat seaweeds.
Though it’s a banchan (side dish) for a regular Korean meal, through time, mothers still prepare Miyeokguk for their children to take it as their first meal on their birthdays. Even adults still prepare Miyeokguk for themselves as their birthday breakfast to show gratitude to their mothers.
Since Korea is rich with seafood, some parts of the country also include sea urchin, oyster, clam and abalone in their miyeokguk. This dish is really easy to make as it only requires dried seaweed soaked in beef or seafood stock added with minced garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. Nowadays, you can also purchase instant seaweed soups in Korean marts, making this soup easier to prepare.
Like Koreans, let’s all be grateful for our mom’s effort in shaping us become professionals. This seaweed soup isn’t just about tradition but appreciation. In the coming years, this practice will continue to live on for it reminds Koreans yearly that we must keep track of our journey from childhood. And of course, be thankful for the years we’ve lived well and healthy. As a foreigner, why not break the traditional celebration of eating cake on your next birthday? Try Miyeokguk next time and show your gratitude through a festive Korean feel!
**photos from koreanbapsang.com, bbc.com, maangchi.com and mwave.com
Written by Krew Member Mikay Javier