Korean-style Healing ~ Dakjuk (Chicken Rice Porridge) & Miyuk Guk (Seaweed Soup)

It was my first attempt at making these two Korean recipes from scratch in my kitchen. The morning when Darling caught my cold and was feeling chilled and feverish, I decided that very day to try my hand at what his mama might make him when he is sick: dakjuk, or chicken rice porridge. I also had seaweed soup in mind, called miyuk guk. Both recipes are nourishing to the body and soul.

I looked through a Korean cookbook I have on hand for some ideas, but found that a Korean lady named Maangchi gave excellent tutorials on her YouTube channel. Basically these two recipes are super easy so there's little room to make any mistake. I thought this would be a good start.

When I go for the day to my local Los Angeles Korean spa, the cafe inside serves all sorts of Korean dishes. The one standard fare for me when going to the spa is miyuk guk. It has such a nourishing quality--- large slippery leaves of seaweed in its own broth, sometimes served with clams, mussels, and beef. I've tried many styles of this but the basic recipe is just seaweed, seaweed broth, and garlic.

One day not so long ago I showed my Korean cookbook to Darling and asked him (casually) what his mom makes at home (secret plot brewing). He earmarked the pages of recipes that she makes, and the dakjuk recipe was one of them. He cooed while reminiscing over the recipe, so that one stayed in my memory as a special one to make (the magic dish). I had hoped to find an opportunity to try my own version.

If anything, to win his heart just a little more.

So yesterday was the day. I didn't have enough time to go to the Korean supermarket and make it back to start up the stove. It was a secretive little plan I had, to prepare everything and then surprise him after his day at work. He ached all over, had chills, and felt awful. He was leaving work early! I had already begun the seaweed soup and the chicken rice porridge, but it was in the beginning stages. I wanted it all to be table ready for him, but no such luck. Even so, he was thrilled when he came into the kitchen and smelled everything cooking on the stove. His eyes lit up and I got lots of hugs and affection. He tasted a ladleful of each and his eyes sparkled. I knew I had done something right. I was bubbling with joy. Success!

Here are the recipes, courtesy of Maangchi, although I adapted them a little bit:

Miyuk Guk (미역국 Miyeok Gook)

Miyuk guk is a seaweed soup traditionally eaten on birthdays or after giving birth for post-partum nourishment. Miyuk is known to be rich in iodine, calcium, and helps lower cholesterol in your body.

(4-6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of soaked miyuk (1 cup of dried seaweed)
  • 16 cups of water (I added a little chicken stock for flavor)
  • 4-5 tbs of fish sauce
  • beef brisket/clams/mussels (if you'd like to add)
  • 1 tbs of minced garlic
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Soak 1 cup of dried miyuk in a big bowl for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the water from the seaweed and cut it into bite size
  3. Place the soaked seaweed (about 4 cups) in a big pot and add 16 cups of water and boil it over high heat for 20 minutes (later you may have to add more water if the soup is too thick).
  4. If adding meat/clams/mussels: cut the beef brisket into bite size pieces/add in the clams/mussels
  5. When the water starts boiling (about 20 minutes later), add the meat and 1 tbs of garlic. Boil it again for another 20 or 25 minutes over medium heat.
  6. Add 4 or 5 tbs of fish sauce (to taste) and drizzle a few drops of sesame oil before serving.
  7. You may serve with a bowl of rice to add into your bowl of miyuk guk.
I found that the type of seaweed is important for the texture. I used arame and probably should have made the extra effort to drive to the Korean supermarket for the right seaweed. Wakame might also work. It wasn't clear exactly what kind of seaweed, so I just trusted my memory from eating it before and my supermarket hunting instincts.
Next recipe on the stove...
Dakjuk (닭죽 Dak Jook)

I adapted Maangchi's recipe and infused it with both another Korean cookbook recipe (which called for dates-- or jujubes-- and chestnuts-- both give the rice porridge its own special umami) and of course I added in my own touch of love.

Instead of dates and chestnuts (which I will use next time) I added in a bunch of carrots. The carrots were more of a Western-style addition (common in chicken soup). But lesson learned: dates and chestnuts would give it a quality, texture, and sweetness that the carrots did not. I also used chicken broth instead of water. I wanted this porridge to be flavor rich.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Cooking time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • A whole chicken (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 ½ cups of garlic cloves (whole)
  • 1 ½ cups of rice
  • 2 eggs (beaten and set aside)
  • 3 green onions (chopped)
  • 1 leek (minced)
  • salt
  • water/chicken broth
  • carrots/(or) dates (chopped)
  • chestnuts (peeled)

Directions:

  1. Soak 1½ cups of rice in cold water for 1 hour. *tip: if you like thinner soup style, use 1 cup of rice;  if you like thicker porridge style, use 1½ cups rice
  2. Wash and drain the whole chicken.
  3. Trim the fat from the chicken’s stomach area with scissors; cut off the tip of bum part (Maangchi's suggestion)
  4. Place the chicken in a large pot and add 12-13 cups of water (or chicken broth)
  5. Add 1½ cups of garlic cloves and bring to a boil over high heat for about 40 minutes.
  6. Turn down the heat to low-medium and cook 20 more minutes.
  7. Add in the dates, chestnuts, and leeks (or carrots)
  8. Rinse and drain the rice, and add to the boiling chicken porridge. (Maangchi's suggestion--- however you can also add the rice in the beginning too)
  9. Remove any fat floating on top of the soup with a spoon or ladle.
  10. Keep boiling with the lid closed for another 30 minutes. *tip: lower the heat if it boils over
  11. Chop 3 stalks of green onion and beat 2 eggs and set aside.
  12. Check if the chicken is cooked tender or not by poking the meat with a fork or chopsticks. It’s usually tender after 1½ hour of cooking, but if it’s not tender enough, cook a little longer.
  13. Add the beaten eggs. Pour them in and wait for 10 seconds before stirring, to let them cook.
  14. Add 1 tbs salt to the soup and mix it with your spoon. The amount of salt depends on your taste, so it's a good idea to put the salt on the table for others to add as they like.

Time to serve! Take the chicken out of the pot, transfer to a large plate, and put it on the table to serve. (I didn't do this but left the chicken in the pot where it fell apart into gelatinous bones and cartilage and it took a long time to pick out every little bit of bone out. Oops. Next time I'll take the chicken out). 

I set the table with little bowls of rice (for the seaweed soup), lotus root, and gobo (burdock) root salad (as banchan instead of kim chi).

And guess what? Darling loved it.

He loved it so much, he ate a few servings of each. This was exactly my wish!

I was so happy.