Nutrient-dense foods, warming soups, and comforting meals are the mainstay of postpartum diet around the world. In many cultures, seaweed is eaten after giving birth, to replenish important minerals and nourish the body after birth. In Korea, many women eat miyeokguk, or seaweed soup, after giving birth. The brilliant Soh Kim at Stanford, who grew up on Jeju Island (yes, where the haenyeo dive for seaweed!) told us that the tradition is based on seeing whales eat seaweed after giving birth. Traditionally, the soup was also dedicated to Samsin Halmoni, the three goddesses of childbirth and destiny in Korean mythology, who assist in childbirth and blesses newborns. In ancient times, Koreans placed a dish of miyeokguk next to a pregnant woman's pillow on the week before birth as an offering.
Each birthday, in turn, a person may eat seaweed soup as a celebration and remembrance of their mother eating seaweed soup after their birth.
Seaweed *is* rich in minerals, like iodine and magnesium, so it makes sense to us! Iodine is important for pregnant and lactating bodies and kelp is a great source of iodine. Additionally, omega3, found in seaweed, is important during pregnany and postpartum period.
This Miyeok Guk is vegetarian and made using what we had at hand. Feel free to add meat, poultry, or seafood! The special addition of Bowlcut Gochujang takes it over the top! We're serving it alongside barley (and we used some of the barley water in the stock). This is a fairly forgiving recipe and results in a rich, delicious stock once all the elements simmer for 45 minutes.
Seaweed Soup, serves 2
1. Re-hydrate seaweed in a bowl of room temperature water for 10 minutes
2. Dice onion and garlic and saute in sesame oil until translucent.
3. Add sliced mushrooms, potato, ginger, and dwenjang/miso. Cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add seaweed, gochujang, and water (or barley cooking water / barley tea). Splash in a teaspoon or two of soy sauce, if using. Simmer for 45 minutes