Korean Seaweed Soup (Miyouk Kook)
- Jihyuun Lyo

 

 

Ingredients:

½ pound of chopped beef

½ spoon of minced garlic

Dried Seaweed

1 table spoon of salt or whichever one prefers it

3 tablespoons of sesame oil

3 table spoons of soy sauce

 

Directions: First heat up the pot. Put three spoons of sesame oil, ½ spoon of minced garlic, and chopped beefs. Fried them until the meats turn brown. You don't have to make the meats completely well done because it will be cooked after you boil it with rest of the ingredients. Pour five cups of water into the pot and wait until it starts to boil. When it is boiling, put the prepared seaweed – seaweed should have been soaked in coldwater for at least an hour or more when needed. Cut seaweeds if necessary. Boil for another 5 minutes or so and then put 3 table spoons of soy sauce for the color and the taste. Lastly, if you want it saltier, put more salt instead of more soy sauce.

            This soup is a must have for mothers who just delivered babies. It has been known for a long time in Korea that having this soup for a few weeks after child birth, mothers will gain their strengths back. Also it is believed that seaweeds will help the breastfeeding for a child with its rich potassium. For all I know, that was how my mother was able to get up to her feet after she had my brother and I. She told me she had this soup for three times a day and never gotten tired of it.  The ingredients that we use in this soup is neither difficult to find nor expensive to buy. The soup is very simple to make yet fulfilling to one’s body and mind.

            This soup is almost always prepared by mother-in-law after her daughter-in-law just had the baby. It does not require many preparations or ingredients for that matter. It is one of the simplest Korean soups one can find.

            The soup is very popular in Korea yet contains three interesting stories. One is that it helps mothers who just finished their labors to gain their strengths back as I have mentioned above. It is a main soup that people eat on their birthdays for the reason that is unknown. However, it is said that it is related to the remembrance of one’s mother and her hard child labor. People should not eat this soup the day before an important test. This is simply because the name of soup has also meaning of being “slippery” and one might fail the test (slipping/falling from the success).

           The reason for using dried seaweeds instead of fresh ones is simple. Dried ones are easier to preserve for a long time. Also, after it is soaked in the water for a period of time, it will have that fresh effect again and good to eat!

            The broth is usually prepared by boiling chopped beefs but sometimes prepared with mussels for people who like the flavor of seafood. But especially for mothers who just had labors, it is often prepared with beef broth. The meats had been considered very expensive and precious food to find than the vegetables in Korea. Since the soup contains the meat broth, this was how people consumed the taste of meat and its nutrients.

            However, many people would not consider beefs as precious as it was before. The ingredients of this soup are very cheap to buy. It is something that many Korean people already store in their kitchen in a regular basis. Minced garlic, salt, soy sauce, and sesame oils are used very frequently in almost every Korean food. Each time I make this soup for myself for a quick meal, I remember how my mother prepared each ingredient so carefully. Everything was made from the scratch. This includes sesame oils and soy sauce that she brought from my grandmother’s house.

            The large consumption of meats has started just recently in Korea after our rapid industrialization in 1960s and 70s. Toward the 1990s, western fast food chains have settled in developed cities and the capital. At first, these foods were treated as “eat-in” food with price of the most Korean restaurant chains. The Korean food culture has changed dramatically from vegetarians to meat-eaters. This is mainly because meats used to be considered “holiday” or “special occasion” foods whereas now, almost everyone can eat whenever they want to. The distribution of meats has increased and transformed the food culture in people’s lives. In addition, it is normally considered that meats are important source of proteins. However, Vandana Shiva points out that, “…it is based on the false equation that the only source of protein is animal protein, and that higher animal consumption equals a higher quality of life” (p. 66). As the quality of life becomes higher, people’s choice of foods transformed. Although meats are much expensive than vegetables, many people do not hesitate to buy them as a daily meal. It was not until much later that people started to realize meats cause high risk of cancer and heart diseases.

            Making broth with beef is quite common in many Korean soups. Not only it brings out the flavor of the soup, but also it was the ways in which many Korean people consumed nutrition. Korean people save every part of the cow including its bones. With specific part of cow’s bones, broth can be made several times for other Korean soups as well. What many people do not realize is that, “Moderan meats have seven times more fat than non-industrial meats, as well as drug and antibiotic residues” (Shiva, p.66).

            It is fortunate that traditional food culture of Korea did not disappear as quickly as one would suspect. The mothers having Miyouk Kook after child labor is still a common ritual. However, it is necessary to ponder about where some of the ingredients we use to cook are coming from.