Monday, January 14, 2013

Homemade Mi Yeok Guk (미역국)

Mi yeok guk (미여국) is a soup made from a particular seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida, also known as 'sea mustard' in English. Others may know this seaweed by its Japanese name 'wakame'. Mi yeok guk is the most famous food eaten during pregnancy in Korea. Because of it's high iron, calcium and protein, many pregnant mothers-to-be and new mothers eat a lot of this soup to keep up their strength. To remember their pregnancy and new motherhood, mothers traditionally make this soup for their children every year on their birthday.
Tomorrow happens to be my boyfriend's birthday, and, while not getting a cake might be forgiven, not having mi yeok guk to eat for breakfast on one's birthday would be a sin here in Korea. So, finally, for the first time, I went ahead and tried making mi yeok guk on my own as a surprise. 

The two most important ingredients you'll want to have on hand are mi yeok (미역) and sesame oil (참기름). All the other flavors you can play around with, but these two are essential to getting it right. 

You don't need much mi yeok, in fact, just a small handful is enough to make several cups, which will make a soup to feed 4-6 people. The first step is to soak your mi yeok in water for about 10 minutes so that it absorbs water. Your small handful will expand into much more than what you started with!

I went with a beef base, so while the mi yeok was soaking, I started frying the beef in the pot with some sesame oil. 

Most people don't use onions, but I found a few Korean bloggers that used onion (양파), and since I had quite a few on had, I decided to throw in one, small onion.  I fried them up together with the beef and garlic and it was starting to smell quite nice.

By that time, the mi yeok was all ready. Since the mi yeok comes in very long pieces, I used some scissors to cut it up in to smaller, bite size pieces. Using a knife would also be helpful here if you cut up the mi yeok on the cutting board.  

Add the mi yeok to the beef and fry for several minutes, stirring constantly to keep it from burning. 

Next, it's time to add the water. I didn't measure exactly, but I would say that I added about 8 cups of water. Use your best judgement. You need a good ratio of mi yeok to broth. Then it's time to add your flavors. Some soy sauce (간장), salt (소금), anchovy powder (멸치 가루) are all good options, and can be adjusted to your personal taste. Then let it boil for a while 1-3 hours, the longer the better.


1 oz. (about 30 g) mi yeok (seaweed) (about one small handful)
1 lb. (about 500 g) beef*
1 small onion*
1-3 Tbs sesame oil
3 cloves of minced garlic
8 cups water
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs salt
2 Tbs anchovy powder **

** can be replaced with other seasoning

Fry meat, garlic and onion with sesame oil in the pot which you will boil your soup in. Soak mi yeok in water for 5-15 minutes, until mi yeok has expanded. Fry mi yeok with beef (you can add extra sesame oil for flavor) for 1-3 minutes. Add 8 cups of water (or an appropriate amount with a good ratio of mi yeok to broth). Add soy sauce, salt, and anchovy powder or seasoning to taste. Boil for 1-3 hours, the longer, the better. Taste the broth and add more flavoring as desired.

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