Noryangjin Fish Market (노량진 수산시장)
Last Tuesday, when my Korean teacher asked me what I would be doing for the rest of the day (as she often does), I said “물고기직장에가요” – which I thought meant “I’m going to the fish market” but apparently you don’t say “물고기” (which literally means “water meat”) when you’re talking about fish that you eat. Instead, you say “수산” which really means “fisheries.”
Anyway, no matter how you say it, I went to Seoul’s Noryangjin Fish Market (노량진 수산시장) last Tuesday, on a tour with the Seoul International Women’s Association. This market, one of Seoul’s largest, is open year-round and has been since 1927! I thought I had dressed warmly and smartly (I wore rubber rain boots because the floors were slick and wet, a coat, scarf, gloves and ear muffs), but I wasn’t prepared for how COLD it would be inside the fish market. Outside in the sun, it was 40 F (but felt much warmer), but inside, among all the seafood and fish tanks and ice, it felt like an icebox! Brrrr! A dozen of us were led around the market by our Korean guide, Sue. She gave us a printed sheet with a list of seafood names in both English and Korean. Truthfully, I hadn’t heard of the majority of the seafood listed. Sue told us that gray mullet, salmon, flounder and other types of flat fish, were “in season” and very delicious raw. You can go to the market, select a fish, and have the fishmonger clean and slice the fish as sashimi for you to eat there, or to take home. Shellfish is also very popular (to eat raw) in the winter months. Sue informed us that Koreans love to have sashimi from October through February, but avoid raw fish and shellfish during the hot summer months of June through August. I can understand why- it get so hot and humid during the summer in Seoul that it would be very hard to keep the fish cool enough to be consumed raw.
We were given an hour to wander around the market. Most Koreans assume I’m Korean, but one of the fishmongers started talking to me in Chinese… I was able to bargain for a friend who was buying scallops! 😀 By the end of the hour, all of us were cold and hungry (I couldn’t feel my toes anymore), and we were ready to eat lunch! We paid upfront, and Sue was able to have the seafood delivered to one of the restaurants at the market, where it was cooked. We got to sit on the floor, which was HEATED, to enjoy our meal. First, we had sashimi from a flat fish. Then, grilled shrimp and steamed scallops. Lastly, we had fish stew (made with the rest of the flat fish, including the bones- just to add flavor) and rice. It was so nice to be able to warm my butt on the floor while also warming my belly with hot stew!
I found that some fish stands also sell sashimi platters as well as sushi boxes, all for much less than what you would pay at a restaurant. One of these days, I’m going to swing by the Noryangjin Fish Market on the way home from class (kind of the opposite direction, but the market is much closer to Gangnam) and pick up some dinner! I’m sure that will make a certain someone very happy… And no, I’m not talking about Noodles.