How skilled is your imagination? More so than my photographic abilities, hopefully.
It was bound to happen eventually – after snapping dozens of pictures for this journal, I finally managed to botch one. Oh, the dish turned out well, in fact, much more so than may be said of its photo. Sorry, recipe.
Speaking of focusing, maybe I should concentrate on the food, which is why we’re here, isn’t it? The description below will get you started, and may your imagination supply the additional details the picture above lacks.
This is the first time this blog has ventured into Korean cuisine. Specifically, this week’s creation is Honphap Miyeokguk, a seaweed and mussel soup. Yep, those dark shapes you see above are mussels.
The website that first featured this recipe, Maangchi, is a treasure of Korean recipes. So many of them are intriguing, but this is the first one I’ve tried. Thanks to one of you in particular, who’s studying Korean and who has lived in the country, and who told me about the site. Great recommendation!
Anyway, miyeok is Korean for seaweed, I think, and it’s this soup’s vital component. It gives the soup slightly briny notes that are reminiscent of the seashore, and which compliment the mussels perfectly. Another key is letting the mussels simmer in their shells and shucking them only just prior to serving, which allows that deep shellfish essence to enrich the soup.
The result is a dish that tastes of the sea, in the best possible way. Imagine yourself this summer, the first time you’ve been to the beach in who knows how long, the sun on your shoulders and the tide caressing your ankles. The perfect moment. Close your eyes and draw a deep breath…
That’s what the first spoonful of this soup is like. And the second, and the third… Leave it to a country amidst the sea to inspire a soup so evocative of all things aquatic.
(Korean Seaweed Soup with Mussels)
- 1 ounce dried seaweed, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes (*1)
- 2 pounds fresh mussels, debearded, rinsed and drained
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 quarts (8 cups) of water
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 4-5 green onions. chopped
- salt, to taste (*2)
After the seaweed has soaked, drain it, squeeze out any excess water, and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Put the seaweed and the water in a large pot and cook over medium heat, covered, for 20 minutes, until the seaweed is softened and its flavor infuses the water.
Add the mussels, garlic and fish sauce. Sir a few times, increase the heat slightly and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat, drizzle in the sesame oil, add the onions and salt, and serve. (*3)
1 – You might find dried seaweed in your grocer’s “International” aisle, or you can do as I did and order it online. In a pinch you could substitute leafy greens like spinach, which wouldn’t require the soaking dried seaweed does, but it would deprive the soup of something important.
2 – Use sea salt, if you have it.
3 – Before ladling the soup into bowls (but definitely after the shells have infused the soup while cooking) I shucked the mussels, returned the meat to the soup and restored the heat for just a minute, to allow all the flavors to reincorporate. Thusly, cooking the mussels in shell supplemented the flavor, while shucking them just before serving kept the soup from being overly cumbersome to eat.