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Korean Birthday Foods Are Must-Haves

A look at some of the most important birthday foods in Korean culture.

What would you expect on your birthday?

Let's put away greetings, presents and parties for a minute.

There are few things Koreans can’t go without on their birthdays.   

The birthday morning starts with a special soup called Miyeok Guk.

It is a boiled seaweed soup with beef or seafood broth.  Even if you don’t like the soup, you will be disappointed if someone forgets to prepare it for you. It has been a long tradition for most Koreans to have the soup on their birthday to commemorate the pregnancy and labor of their mother and for the birthday boy or a girl to have a good luck throughout the year.  Although the northern part of Korea enjoys a beef and radish soup better, most parts of the country start the birthday morning with seaweed soup. 

When a mother gives a birth to her child, the Miyeok Guk is served for many days.  It quickens recovery and encourages lactation for the mothers.  The seaweed is rich in iodine, calcium, fat-burning protein and fiber. It promotes circulation and purification of the blood, regeneration of organs and skin and helps menstrual regularity.   

The next item is a noodle dish.

Any type of a noodle dish is acceptable. A noodle dish on a birthday bestows you with longevity.

Noodles are served not only on birthdays but also at other special events like weddings and one’s 60th birthday. Noodles are not to be cut into shorter length. The dish is shared with friends. Noodle dishes accompany the best wishes.

Last but not least is the rice cake.

There are a number of different rice cakes that can be served on special occasions. One of the traditions is to have rice cake made out of glutinous kaoliang (liquor) and red bean until a child is 5 or 6 years old. It symbolizes repelling bad spirits and keeping the little ones healthy. Rice cakes are also shared with lots of people.  It is known to bring more luck to a person if they are shared. A variety of western-style cakes are more preferred over the rice cakes these days. Rice cakes are transitioning to fit peoples’ taste buds while keeping our culinary traditions alive.

Seaweed soup, noodle dishes and rice cakes are the must-have items on your birthday.

“Have you had Miyeok Guk this morning?” or “Let’s have some noodle dish for lunch, because it’s your birthday.” These are heartwarming greetings that will make someone happier on his or her birthday.   

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