VISITING NORYANGJIN FISH MARKET IN SEOUL: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
Noryangjin Fish Market is probably on every every food-lovers "must do" list when in Seoul. Officially called the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, it is the largest and oldest fish market in South Korea dating back to 1927.
It is huge, with a bout 700 vendors selling anything that swims in the ocean and is edible. If you have been to Tsukiji in Tokyo, then Noryangjin is a lot less chaotic but it is as exotic and fun to see. There are bubbling tanks of fresh fish, octopus, oysters, marine spoon worm, stingrays, blue crabs and sea snails. Go there hungry because you can taste it all.
There are also vendors selling knives and other kitchenware, as well as dried fish and fermented salted seafood. One of the more controversial things sold at the Noryangjin Fish Market is the local specialty and delicacy, the octopus or san-nakji, eaten with a toothpick while it is still alive and wiggling. A bit cruel, isn't it? Besides, eating it live can choke you to death. If you really want to try, have it chopped up. It may still be squirming, but it’s no longer alive.
HOW TO GET TO NORYANGJIN FISH MARKET?
The easiest way is to take the taxi. It costs about 17 USD (20,000 won) by Black Taxi and a few dollars less by regular taxi if you start in the Palace Quarter. Metro line 1 and 9 go there but finding the market is a bit confusing.
CAN I EAT AT NORYANGJIN FISH MARKET?
Yes! You'll need to buy the fish and seafood and have it cooked to your liking in the restaurants lining the market. The restaurants do not have their own menus but charge a small cover fee (4,000 won) and a fixed price for grilling and steaming (8,000 won). They also have sides such as kimchi and chili sauce as well as drinks, including local beer and soju.
Most vendors do not speak English and making a purchase is an interesting experience through the use of hand gestures and calculators. Many vendors have sashimi platters for display. Show them the platter size and the type of fish you want. They will clean (and kill) the fish and cut it into sashimi-sized pieces. The prices are reasonable and you can negotiate. We paid 50,000 won ($40) for a whole turbot and a mixed sashimi platter.
After you have made the purchase, someone will walk you to the restaurant where you need to tell them how you like your fish cooked. The turbot we bought was still alive inside the plastic bag that the market vendor took to the restaurant. They put the fish on the grill and we sat enjoying the kimchi that was brought to the table. We did not have to wait for the fishmonger to prepare the sashimi platter, which was brought to us later as we were enjoying our drinks in the restaurant. It's the freshest fish you can get and absolutely delicious.