Thursday, June 19, 2014

Noryangjin Fish Market

Noryangjin Fish Market is no less stellar in comparison to the world's largest fish market that is Tsukiji in Tokyo. The variety of marine produce gathered in this industrial warehouse of cement organised into orderly rows by its metallic tin interior come from all over Korea and are auctioned out to merchants of smaller markets and restaurants. 

Reputed to be a home to at least 700 stalls and boasting a variety of food items ranging from fermented fish, dried food, vegetables and a myriad of seafood including king crabs, lobsters, abalones, varying sizes of prawns, scallops, fish typically filleted and eaten raw and of course, the notoriously famed sannakji (or live octopus), the fish market tops the list of must-visit places in Seoul. 

Auctions here start at 1 am and run on at intervals for different types of seafood till early morning at about 630am. What I would recommend is for a leisurely stroll around the market while avoiding the lunch (12-2pm) and dinner crowds (7pm onwards).

From Seoul station, walk towards the train line for Line 1 and take it south of the Han river to Noryangjin station. That unmistakable fishy stench which greets you from the time you step out of the train at Noryangjin tells you that you're definitely at the right place. You'll see a few sellers along the overhead bridge selling nuts, candy and fresh vegetables. 

Follow the blue signs up the overhead bridge towards the fish market. 

Once you get to the open air carpark area, just head two flights of stairs down and you'll be greeted with an aerial view of the fish market. It's psychological. Once you see all that seafood, that smell matches the scene perfectly. And then it all becomes much more bearable. Trust me because you'll have that inexplicable urge to get closer to all that stench when you head down one more level to the fish market quickly because there'll be lots of work to be done before dinner. :)

It was close to 5pm when we got in and we had an 8pm Nanta show at Chungjeon-no to be at. After walking down a short stretch of stalls, we realised that most of their seafood was similar.

There are many Chinese sellers so you could decide to bargain in a language you knew or just for the experience, we settled down to bargain with a lively Korean ahjumma in a hot pink apron. We definitely don't speak the same language but the numbers will speak for themselves. You can usually get about 10% off their first suggested price. 
So bargain but do it realistically. 
After all, she's the one with those pincers in her hands.

King crab  'ge' (2.7 kg) - 85 000 won
And the shells from the stall next to hers.

Abalones 전복 'jeonbok' (6 large)- 20 000 won
Scallops 조개 관자 'jogae gwanja' (12) - 10 000 won

After payment, she took our crabs from us and passed it to a lady from Jade restaurant who was all ready to take over our business for dinner but I was skeptical of the relationships between the sellers and restaurant owners so I took a name card and a raincheck on her offer.

We walked down further wanting to look for squids but there were only palm sized ones so we eventually settled on some grey prawns. 

Prawns 새우 'saeu' (18 medium local grey prawns) - 10 000 won

I wanted some fish of which, the ones that abound are the flounder, sea bass and garoupa. But dad, the fisherman is ever so picky on his choice of fish that we didn't manage to settle on any and those salmon slabs while inviting, seemed too greedy a purchase for just two girls. 

And that wraps up our shopping attempt at the market. Heading upstairs to the level where the restaurants were, we played matching to find Hwangje Shik-Dang, 皇帝食堂 in Chinese or 황제식당 in Korean. They have waitstaff that speak Chinese and yes, you can even bargain here. With my haggling antics, I managed to get the table setting per person down to 2000 won (the standard usual being 3000 won) and although the cooking cost was charged by the kilogramme at 6000 won per kilo, its usually just an estimate so get the total cost and get it rounded off. 

Don't worry if you aren't sure what's the best way to have it cooked, they usually would do recommendations for you. We had the abalone butter grilled (it's not that nice eaten raw with a tough texture similar to eating an unripe fruit), the prawns and scallops barbequed and the king crab steamed.

So eat up and eat well. 
Every dish was delicious. :) 
All that sweetness of fresh seafood into our rumbling tummies.
Don't worry if the crab looks too daunting to be eaten. 
Break off the legs and use the scissors provided to cut the shells which are much thinner than we had expected. 
One of the waitstaff came by to help with the pincers that have shells tougher alike those of the Sri Lankan crabs we're familiar with and the body of the crab. 
Here's when you tell her that you want some fried rice because she will collect the crab's eggs and innards together with all that steamed crab essence to fry with rice. 
And each serving of that delicious rice 
(with kimchee, seaweed, sesame seeds fried with sesame oil and all that crab essence) costs 3000 won per portion. 
Each portion feeds two satisfactorily.

Our dinner for 6 pax came up to 160 000 won which works out to less than 40 SGD per person.
So I reckon it's best you come in a group.
Otherwise, there's hardly much seafood that you could be eating between one or two people.

Credits for all prior trip information to:
All other opinions and writeups in this post is solely mine and the prices are as stated on 10/6/2014.

Noryangjin Fish Market 노량진수산시장 [map]

13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu

동작구 노량진동 13-8

Phone: +82 2 814 2211
Subway: Noryangjin station, Line 1 or 9

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