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Seaweed Soup for Birthdays: Celebrating Korean Style

Posted by QEQ Intern | 06.16.15


1st Birthdays are Huge Celebrations in Korea

1st Birthdays are Huge Celebrations in Korea


Have you heard of unusual birthday dishes from other countries? They’re not all cakes and pastries, or the things Canadians typically associate with birthdays. Different cultures have different traditional foods. Chinese people celebrate their birthdays by eating noodles, and in Korea, people eat seaweed soup.


Now, you may ask: Seaweed soup? Have you seen seaweed soup? If you’ve ever celebrated your birthday in Korea, you might have heard the line: “Have you had miyeokguk?” from your friends or family. This means, ‘Have you had your Seaweed soup?’ And traditionally, this is a dish you would be served on your special day.



Traditional Seaweed Soup or miyeokguk

Traditional Seaweed Soup or miyeokguk

Typically, seaweed soup is made of a type of seaweed called miyeok and eating miyeokguk is deeply rooted in Korean traditions.


But, why serve this kind of dish on a birthday? There are a variety of opinions about the dish’s origin, so it’s hard to find the true source. But, the obvious fact is that Koreans have always had access to good quality seaweed. So, the idea of using it in traditional foods is not far-fetched. In ancient documents dating back to the Song Dynasty, there are several articles that document the serving of seaweed soup. In every Goryeo (Korean dynasty), people enjoyed miyeok, independent of their social class. One theory is that mothers usually ate miyeokguk after giving birth, as miyeok contains a high amount of calcium and iodine, nutrients that are important for nursing mothers. And this custom continued to this day, except now, they use the soup to celebrate birthdays as a way of acknowledging their mother’s struggle to bring them into the world.


According to tradition, it is usually the family who cooks miyeokguk for the birthday boy or girl. But, if someone does not have family nearby, it usually falls to the friends to prepare the special dish. They would serve and then eat the meal with the birthday person, as that is also part of Korean tradition, and in my opinion, that is the best part. What is more loving and caring than preparing a special meal for someone, then sitting down with them to share a bowl or two? You can feel the love in every spoonful of the seaweed soup and it brings happiness to everyone involved.


Why don’t you try making it for someone’s birthday? How about cooking miyeokguk for the people you love? Give it a try….


From Paul, our Korean Intern at QEQ 

 (Image courtesy of Visit Korea)