"The smacking sounds and slurps when the soup was hot and spicy [was universal]. Here we kids were allowed to join in because it was not impolite, but rather a sign that one appreciated the tasty food."
--Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall's Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen

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Korean Soup Customs

Koreans call themselves t'angban minjok, a rice and soup eating people--and with good reason. Rice, soup (kuk/guk), and kimchee are traditionally served simultaneously at all meals, no matter how fancy or simple--breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even when many other side dishes are included, soup usually serves as the beverage, as tea is not generally served until the end of the meal.

Soup stocks can be made of beef, chicken, fish, dried seafood, or seaweed--and they often start with the water the rice has been washed in.

Special soups are served for festivals, whether national holidays, Confucian rituals, or special occasions. For example: Ttok Manduguk (rice cake and dumpling soup) for New Years; red bean cereal soup for Dongi; kuk soo jang kuk (beef mushroom soup with long noodles) for marriage; miyokguk (seaweed soup) for brand new mothers; and okol kyesamt'ang (black rooster soup with some 20 ingredients) or kyesamt'ang (ginseng chicken soup) or paeksuk (plain chicken soup with sweet rice and garlic) for tonics.

As with the rest of the Korean cuisine, these soups are any combination of hanguk omsikun saek'om, dalk'om, malk'om hago olk'un, tchagvtchal, ssubssul, kkoshohan masida--pleasantly sour, sweet, hot, burning hot, salty, bitter, and nutty.