It’s a feeling many Koreans might understand — walking into the kitchen on the morning of your birthday only to be hit by the smell of briny ocean air. Brewing on the stove is a pot of miyeokguk, or seaweed (miyeok) soup (guk), made with the slippery brown seaweed one might recognize washed ashore at the beach. Regardless of how you feel about the taste, that same slippery goodness will often accompany your celebratory day. But where does this Korean tradition come from?
Birthday miyeokguk stems from another Korean tradition of new mothers eating the soup to aid in postpartum recovery. For the first few months after childbirth, Korean women will often consume the dish for up to several meals per day for its nutritional benefits — and how that tradition originated is where it gets interesting.
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