This traditional Korean soup is made every birthday. Eating this soup on your birthday is akin to blowing out candles on your birthday cake. Cake was optional growing up—having this soup was not. This soup is also what you make for new mothers. It’s special because it’s rarely available on a menu, even at Korean restaurants, and if it is, it's never as good as your mother’s recipe because time is really what gives it its flavor.
This vegan version is intensely simple and requires 5 essential ingredients, but the end result is a very rich, umami-filled broth with warm seaweed and mushroom flavors. Prep takes about 10 minutes; simmer for the full 45 if you have the time. Otherwise, 30 minutes will work too! —Julia
Test Kitchen Notes
Sometimes, when the temperatures drop or you're not feeling your best or you just need a little pick-me-up, nothing hits the spot like an easy, warm, comforting bowl of soup. As the developer Julia mentions, this seaweed Korean soup is made every birthday and is usually eaten for breakfast, just as traditional as getting a birthday cake and blowing out the candles. Recipes will of course vary to suit every family's taste and traditions, so it may not be the exact same as you remember if you grew up with a version of this soup at home, but feel free to use this as a base and experiment from there. You just need one pot, minimal ingredients are required, and most of the cook time is totally hands off. This is our type of soup!
You'll love how easy it is to make: All you have to do is give the seaweed a quick soak in some water. Cook the garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweed in a saucepan, then simmer in some water and soy sauce for about 45 minutes. The gochugaru is optional here, but it's highly recommended, it really gives the soup a punch of bright flavor and helps tie the more savory ingredients together. Feel free to adjust the amount as you taste. This recipe was developed to serve two, but feel free to make a big batch, as you can easily scale up the ingredients. After taking a bite of this soup, you'll see why sometimes simple is simply the best. —The Editors
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 2
toasted sesame oil
garlic cloves, finely chopped
Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru; optional)
soy sauce or tamari
Cooked rice and/or kimchi, for serving
- Soak the seaweed in about 1 cup water for about 5 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the oil. Cook the garlic, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add the hydrated seaweed, mushrooms, and gochugaru, if using, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, until the mushrooms are softened and browned.
- Pour in the water and soy sauce. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper. Divide the soup between bowls. Serve with rice and/or kimchi alongside.