As of late, Korean food has been launched into the Western world as a trendy and modern style of cuisine. Many restaurants clamor to provide for an increasingly diverse range of food consumers. Among the most famous in Western knowledge are foods like KBBQ and bibimbap. Korean cuisine just embodies home-style comfort food to me,  and is chock full of dishes that your mom welcomes you home with.

However, those aren't the only delicious Korean foods. It's time for Korean soups and stews to get some limelight. There's something wholly unique about the emphasis on whole ingredients in Korean soups that don't necessarily have to include such add-ins such as meats and noodles. This makes many classic Korean meals very vegetarian friendly and whole-food focused.

My love from soup actually sprouted from my hatred of breakfast. Stacks of pancakes and waffles with bacon and eggs were never something that I craved or enjoyed. When a piece of toast and butter no longer was a satisfying way to start my day, my mom opted to feed me last night's leftover soup for a more substantial breakfast. My mom's delicious Korean soups were filling, but definitely did not weigh me down for the day. Since most of my life has consisted of eating soup for two meals of my life, I can confirm that all of the following soups are most definitely approved.

1. Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개) 

The basis of the recipe is just water and kimchi, which is fermented napa cabbage. This soup actually tastes best with well-fermented kimchi, which makes it perfect for using up any old tart and sour kimchi you may have.

Additionally, it is also incredibly versatile in the sense of the ingredients. Although classically made with pork cuts, you could substitute it with seafood, shrimp, clams, other meats, like SPAM and sausage, or even just make it vegetarian by excluding meat entirely.

2. Soondubu Jjigae (순두부찌개)

This soup is a variation of the kimchi jjigae, but differs with the addition of extra soft tofu. The tofu makes the soup into a completely different dish, bubbling in the soup like lava and making the tasting experience ultra smooth.

3. Doenjang Jjigae (된장찌개)

This is another classic home-style comfort food. Similar to miso soup, doenjang is a fermented soybean paste with a somewhat stronger flavor than the Japanese version. Considered to a staple in all Korean households, the soup is vegetable based with green onions, mushrooms, and zucchini along with soft tofu; it's perfect for vegetarians. However, if you want to amp it up a bit, adding seafood like clams and shrimp won't hurt. 

4. Tteokguk (떡국)

This is the iconic Korean New Year's soup. Out of the 15 years of my life, I can't remember a single year when my mom didn't promptly make this soup on the morning of every January 1st and Lunar New Year's Day. The rice cakes in this particular soup are shaped like coins, signifying good fortune for the upcoming year. 

According to my mom, when eaten on New Year's Day, this soup is what causes you to age one more year. In Korean tradition, if you don't eat this soup, you will not age another year. This may be confusing but here the distinction between "Korean age" and "international age" differ. In Korea, a baby is one year old at the time of birth. There are multiple theorized reasons for this logic but one of them is that maybe Koreans wanted to count the nine to ten months a baby spends in the womb before birth and round up to twelve. Another tradition associated with this soup is that Korean people grow a year older on New Years Day. Maybe this was to simplify the age count process by making everyone's birthdays on New Years Day. Basically, this is some powerful age-making soup that you must eat on New Years.. The starchy rice cakes create the milky white color of the soup. To top it off, it is traditionally served with a poached egg and sprinkled with shredded dried seaweed.

5. Miyeok Guk (미역국)

This soup actually celebrates one's mother on your birthday. (Shoutout to my mom! ) Because of this, it is another symbolic soup that Koreans eat on their birthdays. The seaweed is rich in calcium and iodine in which Koreans believed were essential to pregnant or nursing mothers. The soup is composed of either anchovy or dashi broth with soy sauce, garlic and seaweed. Typically, the soup gets boosted with protein with small cuts of beef or more seafood.

6. Gomguk (곰국)

When my mom makes this, she brings out her industrial-sized pot out of the basement to fulfill its sole purpose to make this bone broth. You know it's game time when the 60-quart pot comes out. It is a very time-consuming process of boiling the pot filled with the cow bones and water for up to a week.

Throughout the week, you drain out the broth periodically and refill the pot with water so that the broth continuously gets thinner. According to my mom, the stronger broth should be eaten with only salt and pepper for seasoning along with the possible add-in of rice. The thinner broth makes an excellent base or noodles, other soups, or for braising meats.

7. Sujaebi (수제비)

I like to call this the Korean pasta. Instead of the Italian marinara, a thin soup coats the noodles. This soup is composed of hand-pulled noodles dropped into boiling broth. The noodles are more ripped than pulled, meaning that you could end up with a tiny gnocchi-sized piece or a piece of the size of Texas.

When I was little, I would stand next to my mom as she ripped the dough directly into the bubbling broth and try to help only to be gifted with my gargantuan-sized piece in my soup later. Often, you'll see vegetable add-ins like zucchini, but you can also serve it without.

8. Mandu Guk (만두국)

This soup directly translates to "dumpling soup." Although most people are familiar with Chinese-style soup dumplings, Korean dumpling soups plops palm-sized vegetable and meat stuffed dumplings into a broth-based soup.

My mom tells me that my grandmother liked to make them fist-sized, which meant that you were knocked out after eating just two or three. In the fall, my family likes to come together on a lazy Saturday afternoon to make 100-200 dumplings to freeze and store for the winter. Some years, my mom gets ambitious and even makes her own dumpling wrap dough. That too often leads to a commotion, considering that my siblings and I have to share one rolling pin.  It's keep up with my mom, who I'm nearly 100% sure is a human-disguised dumpling machine.

This soup is a particular favorite to eat for breakfast or for dinner and is often served with rice cakes in the soup.

9. Gamjatang (감자탕)

Although it translates to "potato soup", the name is actually very deceiving. The limelight should be more on the pork bones in the soup which make an oily, rich broth base. The pork is boiled with the meat meat on the bone. The boiling process does its work to make it so tender, the meat ends up falling right off the bones. The potatoes a merely an afterthought as they are boiled in the broth until tender. All combined, it makes a hearty, spicy dish that is usually an entree all on its own.

10. Hobakjuk (호박죽)

This "soup" is actually more of a porridge than a soup. This porridge is a very late-fall and winter kind-of-meal. Not only is it perfect before heading out into the cold, but its main ingredient, squash, is in season during that time. You can actually make this with a variety of squashes including butternut squash, kobocha or even pumpkin. The porridge ends up to be very thick and sweet, perfect for a winter breakfast or snack.

Korean soups are, all-in-all, one of the most delicious parts of a Korean's diet. They tend to be health-orientated, with lots of veggies stuffed inside, and the diversity of the soups that can be made offers something for everybody. My mom's particular love for soups always made sure that I was full and satisfied when I left for school when I was younger, something that I've grown to appreciate every single day.