A Korean Birthday Soup for Any Occasion

Why It Works

  • Using Joseon ganjang (Korean soup soy sauce; see note), which has a more savory, less sweet flavor than soy sauces with wheat, pairs better with this beefy, vegetal soup.
  • Long soaking of the seaweed followed by a nice, gentle simmer, ensures every bite is perfectly tender.

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Miyeok-guk, a seaweed soup rich with beef brisket and a small but flavorful assortment of aromatics, is a very special dish for Koreans. Because it’s so rich with iron, women often eat it after giving birth. It’s also a must-have soup on your birthday, the kind of thing your mom prepares with love to show you how much she cares about you.

These days, there are plenty of quick and easy recipes for miyeok-guk, but we want to share a version that takes a little longer to make, but has better and deeper layers of flavor from the slow simmering of beef and aromatics.

Don’t let the small amount of dried seaweed fool you: It swells considerably as it soaks.

We recommend serving the soup alongside a bowl of freshly made short-grain rice and some banchan (side dishes) of your choice, such as cabbage or radish kimchi, sweet soy-glazed potatoes, marinated cucumbers, and/or marinated spinach.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins Total: 3 hrs Serves: 4 to 6 servings


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  • 1 ounce (30g) dried miyeok seaweed (also sold under the Japanese name wakame)
  • 3 whole medium cloves garlic plus 3 finely minced medium cloves garlic, divided
  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger (about 1/3 ounce; 10g), peeled
  • 1/2 of a medium white onion (about 3 ounces; 85g for the half onion)
  • 12 ounces (350g) beef brisket, washed in cold water
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) Joseon ganjang (Korean soup soy sauce; see note), divided
  • Kosher or sea salt


  1. In a medium bowl, cover seaweed with at least 3 inches cold water and let stand at room temperature until fully softened and hydrated, about 2 hours.

    A Korean Birthday Soup for Any Occasion

  2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or pot, combine whole garlic cloves, ginger, onion, and brisket with 1 1/2 quarts (1 1/2L) cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, covered, until brisket is tender and broth is slightly cloudy, about 2 hours. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard garlic cloves, ginger, and onion from broth.

    A Korean Birthday Soup for Any Occasion

  3. Transfer brisket to a work surface and allow to cool slightly, then slice across the grain into bite-size pieces. Transfer brisket to a small bowl and toss well with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and remaining 3 cloves minced garlic. Set aside.

    A Korean Birthday Soup for Any Occasion

  4. Drain seaweed and squeeze well to remove excess water. Transfer to work surface and roughly chop into bite-size pieces.

  5. Return broth to a simmer and add seaweed and seasoned brisket. If the proportion of liquid to solids is too low for your taste, you can top up with water and return to a simmer. Add remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and simmer until seaweed is tender, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

    A Korean Birthday Soup for Any Occasion

  6. Ladle soup into bowls and serve alongside hot rice and any banchan (side dishes) of your choosing.

    A Korean Birthday Soup for Any Occasion

Special equipment

Dutch oven


Joseon ganjang is made exclusively from soy beans with no wheat; see our guide to the Korean pantry for more on Joseon ganjang and yangjo vinegar, including brand recommendations.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The soup can be refrigerated for up to 5 days; reheat before serving (you may need to thin with water, since the seaweed can thicken the chilled soup).


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