There’s definitely no shortage of chilis, beef stews, meatloaf, root veggies, and all the other typical winter comfort foods at our house when the temperature drops, but more than anything else, there tends to be an increase in Korean dishes simmering on the stove. Usually, it’s all about the kimchi or miso-based stews, but lately, I’d found myself wanting Korean seaweed soup (miyeok guk).
I’d always left the making of this soup from scratch to the expert (aka Mom), or, if I had a sudden craving, normally, the instant packets of wakame soup from Kikkoman would usually do in a pinch. Last week though, those packets weren’t going to cut it, and with my mom 3 states away, I figured I’d try tackle the challenge of furthering my Korean domestication.Nowadays, you can find freeze dried seaweed at your neighborhood Whole Foods, which is surreal for me. I remember my family having to drive an hour away from home in our grey Winnebago a few times a month to pick up ingredients at the nearest Korean market in Kansas. It’s great to have easy access, but there’s limitations on varieties and brands. Now, Graham and I look for any excuse to make the quick trip to H-Mart located in the Korean strip mall in Elkins Park. It’s just easier for me to know exactly what I’m buying when I can read Korean labels on the products. There’s less chance that I’ll inadvertently pick up the “wrong” kind of seaweed by mistake (for this soup, koreans use “sea mustard”). Straight out of the package, not the prettiest ingredient.. the texture’s similar to kale chips… but, let it soak in water for about 20 minutes and…it unfurls into some really beautiful, pillowy greens. I love the sheen!
As far as the recipe goes, I started off using one from Korean Bapsang, but as the soup was finishing up on the stove, a quick taste test determined that, although good, it didn’t quite taste like the kind my mother makes. I did a little comparison googling and deferred to Maangchi’s recipe, since I’d often used her site for deciphering the flavors in korean dishes in the past and gotten some luck. I added a bit of fish sauce… it was perfect =)I definitely felt like i earned my “Korean cred” when I texted a photo to both my parents and they both messaged back that it made them hungry.. ok.. so it helped that I’d sent them the photo around lunchtime and neither of them had eaten yet.
It was a simple once I had the right ingredients, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up those Kikkoman instant wakame soup packages in the pantry anytime soon =) Hooray for laziness!