On our third day in Seoul, we visited Noryagjin Fish Market (鷺梁津水産市場/노량진수산시장), the city’s largest market for marine products. This 66,000 square meter facility houses over 700 shops selling fresh and dried fish and other seafood from 15 fishing ports around Korea. It was quite disorienting to face so many stalls selling so many different types of seafood (many of which I do not recognize), but I only had one goal to complete that day – eat octopus, alive.
Enough with chic cafes, it’s time to get local.
Noryangjin Fish Market
Noryangjin Fish Market
Fish fish fish
Ok maybe this giant right here is too big to eat live.
But these little ones look about right.
After making some purchases at the fish market, we were led downstairs to a restaurant where our lunch will be cooked.
To clarify – the octopus isn’t actually alive by the time it’s brought to your table as it’s already chopped up, but its nerves are still there and hence the squirming and sucking motions. It’s quite likely that your chopped up octopus will climb out of its plate and yes, you will feel the tentacles sucking to the inside of your cheek, your tongue, or your teeth…
What to do: pick up a piece of octopus (harder than it sounds, the tentacles will firmly cling themselves to the plate!), dip it in some sesame oil, and into the mouth it goes. Chew! Chew! Chew! I swallowed a piece too quickly and could feel it sucking to my throat, and I thought – oh no, please don’t let me be one of the few people who die from eating live octopus each year. Fortunately that sensation went away after ten agonizing minutes or so, during which I downed plenty of rice and soup in hope of pushing the sucking octopus down. And how did it taste? Yum, though I’d say eating live octopus is more about the sensation than the actual flavor and texture.
We also tried sole fish sashimi, a very crunchy fish that can be a bit hard to chew, but still delicious with perilla leaves and a dab of gochujang.
Sole fish sashimi
Fresh mentaiko over rice, one of my all time favorites.
Mentaiko over rice
Finally, the fish bones were added to a broth and cooked into a huge pot of soup – a very satisfying ending. I don’t know exactly how much we spent, but it’s approximately 20,000 won/person for the seafood itself (this will of course vary depending on what you buy), and 10,000/person at the restaurant. A worthwhile experience for those who want to see the more local side of Seoul.