Known as myeok guk, or birthday soup, a therapeutic dish historically used to help postpartum mothers recover from childbirth.* The great thing about Korean seaweed soup is with slight modifications it can become therapy for many Chinese medical syndromes. Seaweeds in TCM are used in medicine to soften hardness, reduce masses, disperse accumulation, resolve phlegm, promotes urination, and clears heat to name a few benefits.

 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 of cup (about 30 grams) of dried seaweed such as wakame, toska nori, dulse, alaria, bladderwrack, Irish mosh, hijiki

  • 1 tbsp of neutral high heat oil - ideally something like organic grape seed oil or light olive oil in a pinch

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • 3 1/2 cups of anchovy or dashi broth (yin deficiency), bone broth (for blood or qi deficiency), or vegetable stock (for qi stagnation or damp conditions)

  • 1 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce or to taste

  • 2 tbsp of black sesame seeds

 

Instructions

  1. Soak the seaweed as directed on its packaging. It will expand. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture. You may want to cut the seaweed into smaller pieces

  2. In a soup pot - heat the oil over medium heat, add garlic and cook until fragrant - about 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn

  3. Add the seaweed and sauté for another 2 minutes

  4. Add the stock and soy sauce, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil

  5. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the soup appears milky. You can cook longer if desired

  6. Toast the sesame seeds if desired.

  7. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the soup - season with a pinch of pepper if desired

 

Modifications:

Substitute type of stock based on the TCM syndrome. Only add one or two of the suggested ingredients to keep the soup simple. Cook any animal proteins to their appropriate temperature - you can sauté beef, lamb, or chicken with the garlic. Fish and shellfish can be poached gently at the end of cooking.

 

*For blood deficiency syndromes use bone broth. The classic postpartum modification is to add sliced beef. Adding any high quality animal and sea protein, miso, and leafy greens can also be appropriate.

 

For yin deficiency syndromes use fish, pork bone or dashi broth. Substitute leeks for garlic. Add any of the following: tofu, wood ear mushrooms, shell fish (not shrimp), mushrooms (any type), a poached egg or two.

 

For qi deficiency syndromes use any animal broth or stock. Add sweet and warm flavors like: sweet potato, yams, beef, anchovy, lamb, cooked beans, pumpkin, cooked rice.

 

For qi stagnation or blood stagnation syndromes use vegetable stock. Add small amounts of fish, tofu, sunchokes, hawthorn berries, a dash of something sour like citrus or vinegar, at the end of cooking add fresh greens (especially those with acrid flavors like mustard greens, watercress, basil, mint and arugala), when sautéing the garlic add ginger. Substitute perilla seeds for sesame seeds. Add a pinch or two of Sichuan pepper or white pepper at the end of cooking

 

For damp and phlegm syndromes use vegetable stock. Add cooked pearl barley (job’s tears), thin sliced daikon radishes, onion, celery, mushrooms of any type, cilantro, basil, pepper, fresh ginger, Substitute sesame seeds with perilla seeds. Small amounts of lean ground turkey, or light white fish can be added. Add a pinch or two Sichuan pepper or white pepper at the end of cooking,

 

For heat and fire syndromes use use vegetable stock. Substitute leeks for garlic Add thin sliced daikon radishes, cabbage, arugula, dandelion greens, celery, at the end of cooking to barely poach. Cooked shiitake mushrooms, tofu, barley, and legumes can also be beneficial. Small amounts light white fish can be added. Instead of sesame seeds, garnish with mung bean sprouts, pea sprouts, or lemon or lime.

 

For yang deficiency syndromes use lamb bone broth or shrimp stock. Decrease the seaweed by 1/2.  Prawns, shrimp, lamb, beef, chicken, onions, leeks, parsnips and rice can be added. Increase the amount of garlic and add warming spices like ginger, star anise, or chiles.

References:

Wang, Y., Sheir, W., & Ono, M. (2010). Ancient wisdom, modern kitchen: More than 150 recipes from the east for Health, Healing, and long life. Da Capo Lifelong.