Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul

Seoul's largest wholesale fish market, Noryangjin, is located on the southeastern outskirts of Yeouido amid the shadows of the imposing skyscrapers of the capital city's "Manhattan". Follow your nose to the fish market and you'll feel like you've crossed over to the proverbial other side of the tracks. Goodbye glitzy Trump building, hello dingy fish town!

Since I paid my visit in the evening, I missed out on the lively, fast-paced market atmosphere. For that, I'd have to hit Noryangjin in the wee hours of the morning when vendors from 700ish individual shops bid on the day's catch. Around 7pm, the market was quieter than I had expected, with retailers surly feeling the fatigue of a long day's work and suited businesspeople looking for some after-work grub. The vinyl-aproned staff of Noryangjin's shops are obviously accustomed to the wide eyes and camera flashes of tourists, and I was surprised by how amenable most vendors were to my particuarly intrusive photo-snapping style.

The wide array of sea life was a bit overwhelming for a novice, and coming from a country where consumers are largely removed from the process of how a creature becomes cuisine, it felt a little strange selecting a live fish to be killed, sliced, and served on the spot. Thankfully, my KBS cohorts were experienced shoppers and hagglers.

After bargaining for whatever fits your fancy, market employees quickly and deftly turn live swimmers into sashimi. Then they neatly arrange the fish on sturdy paper plates, complete with little oniony garnishes. The remaining carcass is bagged up and saved for a reappearance in tasty soup. Save room for the eyeballs!

One of Noryangjin's greatest features is its adjacent restaurants where you can round out your experience, and your belly, by digging right into your purchase. All the necessary accouterments (soy sauce, wasabi, lettuce, kimchi) are on hand, and restaurant staff begins cooking your fish remnant soup while you get started on the raw fish. It's not fancy, but it was fresh and very economical. My group of six paid about $20 each for as much sashimi, fish soup, seafood pancake (해물파전), and soju we could handle.


Jazzkevin said...

Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

Seongsu Kim said...

Hi Abby, Thank you for telling me about your new post.

I remeber the day after see your pictures.

I don't know overseas traditional market.

But I think Korea traditional market sellers are never discount them product to novice, foreigner, young people...

So, When you go to market with experienced shopper is good.

I'm not a haggler. 영민, 윤국 were good haggler in 노량진. ^^;

I heard Luke like kind of crap, lobster.

What kind of fish do you like?

I think maybe you like crap. you took picture some crap and shrimp.

In fact, I like raw and cooked fish. but I like cow meat better than fish. :)

In korea 충청남도 태안 have a special fish(?) '뻥설게'

I know the 뻥설게 from the KBS news

News said, That one is popular on this season.

뻥설게's shape similar shrimp and lobster.

뻥설게 is bigger than shrimp, and smaller than lobster.

... (What am I said?)

Anyway, your post is good and fun for me that has your new experience and other sight think about korea.

ps. too long... sorry ^^;;;

Bradpetehoops said...

Anyong aseo? Very nice blog!

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Skunkabilly said...

Hello Ms Rhodes,

I came to your site via a link on Matt Kelley's blog while researching Korean national parks.

I will be traveling to Korea in May (for KOBA!) but am looking to tack on three extra days to do something outdoorsy. I am not familiar with the various seasons though I was there in November 2007 and the fall colors were great. Would you know if the cherry blossoms are in season still in May?

And, uh, would you happen to know if there is any live country music in Korea?

Access is an issue as my Korean is non-existent. Thanks


Daniel Gray said...

My name is Daniel Gray and I am working with the Institute of Korean Traditional Foods in Korea. On Friday, May 8th and Saturday May 9th we are having our 7th rice cake making festival. Rice Cake, or 'tteok' are colorful Korean delicacies that are often served with tea and at special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. The fair will have many events such as rice cake making, rice cake stories, pounding of rice cake powder and much more. And for the first time this year we will have 40 non-Koreans compete in a rice cake making competition. We will have professional chefs and amateurs making rice cake for the first time. Right now we are in talks with Rachel Yang from Joule to participate in this event. The two top chefs in Korea: Chef Paul Schenks of the Intercontinental Hotel and Ciaran Hickey from the Walker Hill Hotel will be at this event.Other top chefs from around the world have been invited as well. The top prize is 2 million won (about 1,800 dollars). Plus there will be live radio coverage, a documentary is being made on the project, and the event will be covered by Robin Hudson of

Leading up to the event on this Saturday, April 11 and the following Sunday April 18th, we will have rice cake making classes at the Institute of Korean Traditional foods near Changdeok Palace (Jongno 3-ga exit 7). All are invited to come and experience making this Korean delicacy. The classes are free, but the spaces are limited so be sure to make a reservation by calling 741.5477 / 010 4272 1900 or by emailing

We hope you will pass this information on to others. We think this will be a great food event and fun for all ages and people. The competition will be the

Attached are files related to the event.

Thank you so much for your time,

Daniel Gray