February 23rd was my mother’s birthday. Like a surprise gift, my sister flew in from Toronto just in time for celebration and for the first time in many years all four of our family members have gathered at our childhood home in Daejeon. It felt nice and a little sad at the same time as I was reminded that as we grow up it is difficult for us to spend time with our family like we used to.
I have decided to make a nice saengil-sang (생일상: a birthday meal) for my mom this year. The first and the most important thing for a birthday meal is indeed a bowl of miyeok-guk (미역국: seaweed soup). In Korea, birthday boys and girls are served with seaweed soup as to celebrate their entrance to the world. It is known that seaweed is beneficial to mothers who have just given birth because it helps with breast feeding. The old traditions of serving seaweed soup to new mothers have lived on and nowadays many people consider seaweed soup as a must-have on a birthday.
A handful of dried seaweed
200g Hanwoo beef
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2~1 tbsp myeolchi-aeckjeot (멸치액젓: fermented anchovy sauce)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic
A pinch of black pepper
1. Soak the dried seaweed in a lukewarm water. When it comes to making seaweed soup remember that a little goes a long way. Small handful of dried seaweed will explode into a big blob once it gets soaked in the water!
2. Slice the beef into bite-size chunks. Marinate with soy sauce, minced garlic and black pepper. Set aside.
3. Heat the pot over medium heat. Add the sesame oil and stir-fry the beef until it starts to brown.
4. Add the soaked seaweed and cook for additional 1~2 minutes.
5. Pour in 2L of water and boil. Season with salt and anchovy sauce. I find that the soup tastes better after it simmers down a little.