After riding for an hour through Seoul’s labyrinthian subway system, my travel partner Jane and I finally emerged from the web of underground, air-conditioned tunnels into the pressing South Korean summer heat. Our mission was to find Seoul’s Noryangjin fish market. Wandering through the markets, especially markets that supply meat and vegetables to the local populace, is one of my favorite activities in Asian cities, towns and villages, so I knew that a visit to Noryangjin was definitely something I had to check off my list of to dos in Seoul. From the subway stop, finding the market was easy. Jane and I meandered through some side alleys that were scattered with vegetable peddlers selling chillis, bean sprouts and fresh tofu. As we got closer to the fish market, we began to see stalls stocked with buckets of writhing eels for sale.
For being a massive fish market, Noryangjin smells remarkably unfishy. The market is housed inside a large warehouse-like building with high ceilings and large open sides that allows for adequate ventilation. The complex was also kept remarkably clean. Vendors wearing rubber rain boots sat in plastic chairs in front of their fish tanks and aquariums. Noryangjin was generally divided into sections: in one area there were the live fish, in another sting rays and in yet another there was raw fish bits mixed with red spicy sauce in large vats. Around each turn vendors called out to us, offering fresh fish and sashimi of all varieties. Jane and I decided to take up a few of the vendors on their offer and we tasted the freshest sashimi possible: killed, deboned and sliced right in front of our eyes. The first vendor we went to retrieved a small fish from the aquarium, knocked it out, sliced and gutted it, flayed it for sashimi and served it to us with a side of daikon radish and red spicy sauce for dipping. Of course, it tasted as fresh as can be: it was light, slightly chewy and perfectly satisfying. After our first fish sashimi we decided to go for a fresh squid sashimi to add some texture variation to our sea food taste testing adventures.
We finished up our squid, waved goodbye to the vendors and continued on, winding up and down the lanes, admiring shell fish, massive sting rays, pyramids of larger fish and live crabs. Tucked near the back of the market was a section where already chopped sashimi mixed with the ubiquitous red Korean spicy sauce was for sale in large tubs. With toothpicks we tasted tiny morsels of different spiced fish varieties.
Here is a collection of photos from our walk through Noryangjin:
Above: A bucket brimming with dried shrimp.
Above: The entrance to Noryangjin Fish Market. The vendors sit in front of their aquariums, plying visitors with offers of fresh-out-of-the-water sashimi.
Above: A woman wraps up a piece of tentacle for a customer.
Above: Fresh octopus laid out on display.
Above: We bought some fresh sashimi from the vendor. He plucked the fish from the water, killed it and sliced it right in front of our eyes.
Above: A vendors shows a customer the small octopi for sale at her station.
Above: I get ready to dig into our fresh sashimi.
Above: After the delicious first try of fish sashimi, we decided to try some chewy, fresh squid too.
Above: Fish choices at the market.
Above: Sting rays on display.
Above: A woman organizes her piles of fish at the market.
Above: A bucket full of tiny shrimp.