In the Korean culture, it is customary to eat seawood soup (miyeok guk) on your birthday. Miyeok guk literally translates into wakame (miyeok) soup (guk). The components of the soup are edible seaweed (wakame, sea mustard in English), a beef or seafood based broth, and a form of protein. The most common proteins used are beef or seafood such as mussels and/or clams.Credit: www.koreanbapsang.com
Miyeok guk is usually made by first soaking dried wakame in water and then adding the softened wakame to broth. The soup is commonly seasoned with soy sauce, salt, garlic, onion, and sesame oil. Dried wakame is a common item found in Korean grocery stores and can also be used for other dishes. It is a staple pantry item in a Korean household.Credit: www.maangchi.com
It is customary for women to consume miyeok guk after giving birth. Due to wakame's high content of calcium and iodine, it is believed that this soup provides the nutrients a mother needs for nursing. I have also been told that it can aid in a quicker recovery after childbirth. Because the soup is eaten by the mother on the day of one's birth, it is then consumed every year on one's birthday as a reminder of the first food a mother consumed and passed on to her newborn through her milk.
I am now an adult in her thirties and to this day, my mother will make or buy me miyeok guk for my birthday. Usually on my birthday, in addition to birthday wishes, my mother will ask me if I've eaten miyeok guk yet.
The soup itself is a common Korean dish and is not soley eaten on one's birthday. I grew up in a Korean household in the US and miyeok guk was a common meal consumed at least twice a month. The soup can also be found in Korean restaurants. It is typically served with a bowl of rice and side dishes such as kimchi. It is also common to add the rice directly into the bowl of soup. I prefer to eat miyeok guk in this manner but like to also add a teaspoon of Korean chili paste (gochu jang) for an additional kick.