Category Archives: Soup

Miyuk Gook aka Seaweed Soup aka Korean Postpartum Soup aka Birthday Soup

Miyuk gook/seaweed soup!

I like to imagine the first time someone looked at a bunch of kelp on a beach and decided to boil a big pot of soup with said clump of seaweed. Maybe someone really hungry. Or someone really creative. Or totally broke. Or all of the above. And rejoicing in its deliciousness and reveling in its health benefits, converting all others to do the same.

Over the years, this soup has taken on different variations (made with fish stock, beef stock, chicken stock, anchovies, with tofu or not, etc), but it’s had a central role in celebrating milestones in Korean lives. And over the years, I’ve often been found eyeing a clump of seaweed on a California beach and thinking about taking it home to eat. Ha.

High in vitamin A, C, iron, and calcium, miyuk gook is served to women after giving birth. It is *the* Korean postpartum food, and you’re supposed to eat it, and only it, for 3-4 straight weeks. So it’s basically your first birthday food, because your birth mom has  theoretically had some on your birthday. My mom has always served me noodles for long life on my birthdays, but many other Korean kids eat miyuk gook on their birthday, too.

I’ve always loved this soup; I’ve never needed the excuse of pregnancy or a birthday to down a nice bowl of seaweed and broth. But here I am–cooking up large batches of the stuff now that I’m due anyday.

You can buy the kelp in either dried or fresh format. I usually buy the dried kind (if you buy the wet kind in the refrigerated section, you’ll want to wash and drain it so that it’s not so salty). Pictured here is a bag of dried kelp:

Dried seaweed

A little seaweed goes a long way. You’ll want to grab a handful and reconstitute it in water, where it will expand and rehydrate into a large mass of seaweed. You’ll also want to cut it up with scissors or chop it with a knife into more wieldy pieces so that when you go to eat the seaweed soup, you won’t have to chew on a seaweed piece the size of your face.

See the bowl of seaweed below? That was about a handful of dried seaweed before soaking in water for about 10-15 minutes. I’m not kidding about how much it expands.


Like I said, there are various meats and stocks you can use. In the past, I’ve used dried anchovies, but my favorite is to use a few short ribs. Because uh, I love short ribs. You’ll see that I’ve scored the short ribs. Better to eat with, my dear!

Also good to add are garlic and green onions. And if you’re so inclined, some sliced tofu.

For the record, my favorite tofu is Pulmuone brand, which I’ve only been able to find in Korean stores. If I can’t find Pulmuone, I tend to pass on the tofu as an ingredient in this soup.

My Fave tofu

After prepping your ingredients, heat up a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or soup pot. And add the garlic and green onions until they soften. Then add your meat until it browns (if you’re using dried anchovies, no need to brown the anchovies).


Then add water. About 6-9 cups. Or whatever your soup pot’s capacity might be. Add the rehydrated seaweed and optional tofu.

Bring to a boil and then simmer.

Add a teaspoon of sesame oil (if you don’t have it, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s a nice flavor). Add a tablespoon of soy sauce (if you don’t have soy sauce, you can add some salt–but be careful not to over salt the soup).

This is what the soup looks like after about half an hour of simmering:

Miyuk gook after 30 min of simmering.

Add some black pepper. Serve with rice. Live long and prosper.

Recipe after the jump…

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Ushering the Lunar year (or ahem, Autumn) in with a bowl of soup

Korean rice dumpling soup

Many Koreans prepare and eat “dduk gook,” (also spelled ddukguk,  tteok guk, or tteok gook) or rice cake soup, on Lunar New Year–in fact, I have been trying to post about Korean dduk gook since the past Lunar Year, a number of months ago. I had a Lunar New Year graphic and everything. But alas, for various reasons, I never got around to the post.

And now it’s October. The brown leaves are falling and hitting the ground not with a chlorophyll heavy thud but a high pitched scrape. When the wind blows, it is accompanied by a crinkling sound that resembles crumpled tissue paper. The air has a slight chill to it, the sun a weak and beautiful golden glow. Even when daytime temperatures struggle into the 70s or upper 60s, nighttime temperatures drop. And while the Lunar New Year might be the holiday platform for this soup, I say Fall is another excellent setting.

Who could say no to this soup? The smooth, yet chewy rice cakes, the rich and mild broth? As a child, I loved the oval rice cakes in this soup, used to feel sad to chew and destroy their perfect shapes and texture, so perfect did they feel in my mouth. The consistency of the rice cakes is something the cook can control–simmer them longer for ovalettes that are soft and near disintegration or cook them for fifteen minutes for firm rice cakes that will take some chewing. I myself like the cakes very soft, and the broth milky.

rice dumplings for dduk gook

In the “olden days,” rice cakes were made by hand, making this soup labor intensive and one reserved for a festive holiday like the New Year. A cook would form a cylinder, and then slice them cross wise at an angle, into ovalettes. But nowadays, they’re readily available at the Korean grocery store, whether they’re handmade by your purveyor, or factory produced. Above is a bag I picked up from the store (Koreana Plaza on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, if you must ask).

You can freeze the bag and use the rice cakes in batches, or you can freeze them upfront knowing that this soup is in your future. Eventually, they’ll find their way to the first step of making this soup: a nice water bath.

rice dumplings soaking

Before you start making the soup, dunk the rice cakes into a bowl of water, let them sit and rest and soften for thirty minutes.

Given that the rice cakes are traditionally the most difficult step to take in making this soup, rest assured that the soup itself is quite simple to make. There are variations on what kind of beef to use, what kind of broth to use and such, but the steps are quite straightforward. Just combine and boil!

I like to use a short rib for the meat, simply because the bone and the beef lend a richness to the soup. Also, I like to use plain water instead of broth. And I like to add some sea kelp (miyuk) to the soup, while others only ask for toasted seaweed (gim, or wakame seaweed used for sushi).

I posted this recipe before on my old blog, but I took it down, so I thought I’d share again. Enjoy.

A side note: I am a huge fan of soup–whether this is because my father insisted on a bowl of soup with every meal, or because the soups themselves are so satisfying, or because my mother liked to make me lots of soup so that I wouldn’t eat too much of the “fattening stuff,” soup has become a great source of comfort to me. It is ingrained in my culinary memory. Here are some other Korean soups I love, posted on Muffin Top:

Recipe follows after the jump…

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A butternut squash soup to devour

butternut squash soup with cider cream

I don’t know why I’ve never attempted to make butternut squash soup at home. I know that when I see it on a restaurant menu, I certainly order it and savor the sweet but savory pureed orange soup, and imagine blustery winds, crunchy and vibrant Autumn leaves, and a scarf preventing all but the most severe winds from chilling my neck. Of COURSE I love a soup that conjures up my favorite season of the year!

And add to that what seems like a genetic code that predisposes me to LOVING squash (correct me if I’m wrong but it seems me and all my Korean relatives and friends LOVE squash)…and it becomes very strange that I have never made anything with butternut squash.

Maybe it’s the squash itself–large, heavy, and almost impenetrable. THAT intimidating vegetable becomes soup? Somehow, I tolerate large, heavy, thick skinned melons in the summer, but I’ve weirdly stayed clear of Autumn vegetables with similar qualities.

But no more!

At the market, I bought a butternut squash, on impulse. I looked at the piles of sugar pie pumpkins, and realized they no longer intimidated me–I like to roast them, puree them, and turn them into pumpkin muffins and pumpkin rocks, for starters (oh, and pumpkin pie!). Why not try cooking butternut squash? I grabbed one, and walked around the produce section, secretly proud of my new ambition.

And I knew what I would make. I would make a butternut squash soup. Oh. YES.

I flipped through several butternut squash recipes found on the net and in my cookbooks–and through my own laziness (there were ingredients like leeks that I didn’t have on hand, and that I did not want to go shop for) and preferences (I decided to leave out whipping cream–the soup was DELICIOUS! It didn’t need milk or whipping cream), I ended up adapting a recipe out of epicurious.

butternut squash soup ingredients

You can see all the vegetable ingredients prepped above–can you believe all of this turns into a gorgeous orange puree? You sautee, boil, and puree. And then devour, as we did. It’s rare that I make a soup that we eat in the course of one single day–but we did. My husband and I snuck bowls of it all day, and then when two of our friends came over for dinner, it disappeared.

So glad I took that butternut squash home.

And here’s the other thing–this soup reintroduced me to my immersion blender. I’d bought the thing nearly fifteen years ago in my senior year of college, thinking that an immersion blender might help make cocktails. I couldn’t afford a blender, but I quickly learned that an immersion blender is not a good substitute for a blender. And hence, it has lain dormant ever since.

No more! It has now been used to puree soup (you’re right–I’ve avoided making pureed soups too, all these years–why oh why, I now ask myself).

This soup is going to be made quite often in this household.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Summer Veggie Minestrone

minestrone soup

It’s the height of summer and all the fruits of the garden–zucchinis, tomatoes, and greens abound. What to do with all of them? Sometimes, I just look at the entire bounty in my garden and in the farmer’s markets, and lining the grocery store shelves and wonder, “How can I eat it all in one bite?”

Seriously. How can I eat it all in one fell swoop? I’m suffocating under all the tomatoes and summer vegetables!

These days I’m eating my fill of vegetables, as fast as I can: as snacks in their raw form, in salads, and as fillers for frittata and quiche…and soup.

I love a good soup–and though I did not grow up on homemade minestrone, it is a soup I have grown to love, with its savory tomato base and its medley of vegetables and hearty beans and pasta ingredients. You really can eat it ALL in one bite.

Over the years I have come up with my own variation of minestrone, and I don’t think I’m alone in that regard. There is no one perfect recipe for this soup–a friend of mine, a wonderful cook, brought me some soup a few months ago when I was sick and without appetite. Her soup was wonderful, but different from what I would cook. I lapped it up happily, it was delicious.

But first–a pause to admire the beans:


These were beans I picked up at Phipps country Farm, where we went berry picking last month. There is a part of the farm set aside for growing beans, which they then sell in the store–I admired the beans so much I bought two varieties: cranberry (borlotti) and autumn bounty.

The cranberry beans are the tan ones with little dark brown flecks–they sort of look like pinto beans. And the autumn bounty look like palomino horses, with big splotches of burgundy all over the beans’ white bodies. They looked so pretty, they reminded me of candy. (It is a HUGE compliment from this sweet tooth to be described as “candy”–mrmmm).

beans, soaked

And here they are–soaking. Remember to soak the beans overnight before using them (if you plan on using the beans for this soup, this is the all-important soaking step).

Okay back to the main thread of soup…

This was a recipe I cobbled together, greatly inspired by tomato provencal soup–I love the orange zest and hot pepper flakes in that recipe, and duly added it to my minestrone.

Additionally, there is a large quantity of vegetables in this soup, so you would do well to prep the vegetables ahead of time, chopping them up as needed, so that when it comes time to cook the soup, things can progress at a calm pace, as opposed to a bunch of sweating and running around chopping things up as you go.

ingredients prepped

Aside from the prep, this soup is incredibly simple to make–there is a particular order in which to add the vegetables: thicker, more aromatic vegetables first…then the cabbage and kale leaves last.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Trashy soup


I cannot eat most Japanese miso soups, even though I do like miso, aka soybean paste. There’s nothing WRONG with Japanese miso soup–it’s just that I love Korean “miso soup” even more, having grown up on its more pungent flavor.

In my mind, miso soup is supposed to be wild and rustic; Japanese miso soup is well mannered and mild, perhaps more refined. And I prefer the imprint of “wild and rustic” in my mind; perhaps for me, it’s just like how ketchup has become synonymous to Heinz. I just think that “wild and rustic” is how miso soup is SUPPOSED to taste like.

Korean “miso soup” (“doen-jang gook”) is based on Korean soybean paste and is a lot more pronounced in miso flavor, even mildly spicy, and the best pastes even have chunks of fermented soybean in them.

Korean soybean paste

When I can get my hands on homemade soybean paste, that’s what I use–otherwise I use the Pulmuone brand or experiment around, like with the above brand. I’m still on a search for a decent (nay, excellent) manufactured brand of soybean paste. I’ll let you know if I run across a lifelong Korean soybean paste mate.

My mother used to make me a soup called “doen-jang shi-rae-gi gook,” which uses soybean paste as a base. The literal translation for the name of “shi-rae-gi gook” is “soybean paste trash soup” or “soybean paste garbage soup” but I’m going to use the moniker, “discards soup” because it sounds just a tad more savoury.

“Discards soup” is very much just that: made up of odds and ends. Because of the soup’s rustic nature, you can just about put any edible green into the recipe, whether it be spinach or dandelion greens…or in this case, Korean chrysanthemum leaves (“sook ggat”) and Korean radish leaves, freshly picked from my garden.

greens from the garden

Likewise, you can add other ingredients as you please, and as they are available (there aren’t that many rules to a “trashy soup”). You can add sliced daikon radish, or sliced tofu cubes. If you have garlic, slice some up and add it. Feel free to improvise–after all, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.


I love this dish for its utterly simple nature–which begins with its recipe. You boil some water (you can do that, right?)…add several spoonfuls of Korean soybean paste to taste…add sliced garlic and tofu and greens (or any other odds and ends)…and boil.


In a few minutes you have a proper Discards Soup.

Serve with rice (or not), and enjoy. You can make this soup as hearty (adding more ingredients) or lean (fewer ingredients) as you like. Me? I like to make it as hearty as possible, often loading the soup up with greens and tofu and even red hot pepper flakes for an extra kick.

*sour* lemon sorrel soup part deux for LIVESTRONG Day

lemon sorrel soup prep

Today, I decided to make something that had A Taste of Yellow, to observe the food blog event organized by Winos and Foodies to celebrate the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s LIVESTRONG Day.

Instructions were as follows:

I’m asking all bloggers to participate in the blog event A TASTE OF YELLOW by making a dish containing some type of yellow food. This can be anything you like as long it features a yellow food. Some ideas to get you started are lemon, banana, saffron, corn, eggs, cheese.

(the roundup of LIVESTRONG foods is here)

I bounced ideas in my head–I could make some sort of lemon dessert, with curd. Or something savory with eggs or cheese–the possibilities were endless. But as I poked my head out the side door this morning, the garden sorrel caught my eye. And then I eyed the fresh meyer lemons in the garden.

I would make my adaptation of Tea and Cookies’ lemon sorrel soup. And not only does it contain lemons–it also contains egg yolks! How yellow!

lemon sorrel soup for lunch

Gathering the sorrel was an incredible pleasure–whereas last time I’d bought bunches of sorrel from the store, this time I walked out the side door and into my vegetable garden with a pair of shears. Snip, snip, snip. Within a few minutes, I had a good handful of sorrel leaves (I only wish I’d had more sorrel plants, farther along in growth, for more sorrel leaves).

This was the first meal based on my new vegetable garden’s production. Momentous. Just a few weeks ago, my meal was a seedling, carrying the weight of my culinary dreams. And before that, my meal was a seed. Now it was in my hand.

I walked back in the house, tapping the earth off my gardening shoes, sorrel leaves in hand, imagining a light but wholly satisfying lunch. I called our house guest and warned him, “This soup might be a bit sour!” I reassured him that there were other things to eat, should he find this soup too strong.

The sorrel leaves were a bit limp (after all, I hadn’t watered the garden yet today), so I put them in a mug of water while I zested and squeezed the lemons. And, of course, I had to take a picture of the still life.

In very short time, we had a lunch for two. I like to add rice to the broth, and I add a bit of hot water in addition to the chicken broth. Last time, I added swiss chard–this time, with no swiss chard at hand, the only greens in the soup were the rough chiffonade of sorrel leaves. Delish. Very hearty (with the rice) and bright (lemons are always good for providing a bit of brightness) on a foggy summer day in the Bay Area.

And how did my lunch companion find the soup? He took a cautious spoonful, then looked up. “It’s good!” he announced–and proceeded to finish his soup serving. After which, he got up to ladle a second bowl.

The proof–is in the soup.

lemon sorrel soup in progress

Recipe adapted from Tea and Cookies follows after the jump…

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North Korean Chicken Soup

north korean style chicken soup

I’ve blogged previously about Korean sam gye tang, an herbal, medicinal chicken soup. But tasty as it is, that is not the chicken soup I grew up on. (One of the reasons being that children aren’t always served sam gye tang, as ginseng is supposedly overpowering for children).

I grew up on North Korean chicken soup with “ohn bahn.” Ohn bahn is a spicy chicken mixture that sits, garnish-like, atop clear chicken broth and rice, in a deceptively simple composition. But it is so much more than garnish–it is the heart of this soup’s flavor. It is this spicy chicken that brings the spirit of this chicken soup alive on my tongue, spicy and flavorful, often bringing a vigorous line of sweat to my upper lip as well as endless delight and comfort.

north korean ohn bahn for chicken soup

This particular soup has made me VERY picky about chicken soup. I had not realized how close my heart and tastebuds lie to North Korean food, but apparently that is the food of my heart and childhood, just as it was the food of my mother’s childhood, which started in Pyongyang in North Korea where this dish originates.

And while I grew to make and adore Jewish chicken soup, with fluffy matzo balls (I like “floaters” not “sinkers”), chunks of celery and carrot, garnished with dill…North Korean Soup with Ohn Bahn is THE pinnacle of chicken soup for me. (And it goes without saying that Campbell’s chicken soup has always brought a big frown to my face. Like I said, I am a chicken soup snob).

I thought long and hard before sharing the directions to making the soup here–but why not share what I love with others? I would be thrilled to proliferate a family recipe.

Recipe follows…

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