As my time in Seoul winds down, I’ve been making a more concerted effort to get to the remaining items on my list. So, last week, a classmate and I went to the 노량진수산시장 (Noryangjin Fish Market) for lunch. 홰 (sashimi) is my friend’s favorite, so I knew she would be a good companion. I, on the other hand, am not the biggest fan of raw fish (it’s a texture thing). But, since I hadn’t tried it in a while, I figured the freshest sashimi in Seoul deserved another chance.
Hundreds of vendors fill the market, which operates day and night (24 hours, to be clear). Apparently it’s a popular drinking spot, which makes sense. If there were this many 포장마차 (‘normal’ street vendors) set up in a single warehouse and open for 24 hours, I would go drinking there all the time too!
Of course, there’s much more than just fish on sale. You can find (almost) every sea creature you can think of, from shellfish to sting rays to sea cucumbers.
One end of the market – the empty warehouse side
After we had enough of looking around, we got down to business and picked a vendor to buy fish from. By that point, it was after 2 pm, and we were getting hungry. The process was quite simple — find a tank with moving fish (who wants a frozen fish when fresher options surround you?), and start bargaining. That we did, and soon we were walking away with a large plate of sashimi and a bag of leftovers from our two fish (for a soup). We paid 30,000 for the fish — one __, and one ___.
The deal at this market is that your fish vendor hooks you up with a restaurant that will cook/serve it for you with side dishes, sauces, and all that good stuff. We had gotten a recommendation for a restaurant from our teacher (who buys fish at this market every weekend!), but decided to stick with the restaurant the vendor was sending us to — there was a guy to lead us there and everything.
Upon arrival, a waitress quickly seated us, tossed a few sauces, wasabi, and a plate of lettuce on our table, and asked, “You want 매운탕(maeuntang, spicy fish soup), right?” We nodded/mumbled yes, and were left staring at our huge plate of sashimi. I don’t think either of us realized quite how large those two fish were. (There are two different kinds of fish on the plate pictured below.)
We started off with the sashimi while our maeuntang was being prepared with the leftover parts of the fish. By the time it was served, I was definitely ready for something cooked. Unlike mushrooms, I have yet to grow out of my dislike of raw fish (for the record, mushrooms were a texture thing too). At least I tried.
The maeuntang was SO GOOD. It was pretty spicy, but not unbearably so. The flavor of the broth complemented the greens, radishes, and fish really nicely. There were tiny bones everywhere, which was a constant annoyance (ultimately a trivial one since it didn’t detract from the deliciousness). I can’t remember the last time I had maeuntang, and I didn’t recognize the name so I know it’s been a while. I’ll have to find some good maeuntang in LA’s Koreatown before I jet off again.
We passed the 63 Building (pictured above, on R) on our way back to the subway. It’s so pretty! And there are supposed to be great views of Seoul from the uppermost floors, rivaling the panoramas from Namsan (Seoul) Tower. I think you can see the observation floor (the row of windows near the top) in the picture. It’s on my list, but I don’t think I’ll make it there this summer… next time!