KampungboyCitygal’s 7 Days Seoul & Busan Itinerary – click here.
Located at the southern tip of South Korea, Busan is well known for its beaches, hot springs, nature reserves and international film festival. Being the fifth busiest seaport in the world, Busan also serves as a transportation and shipping hub for the local economy. The city’s bustling port activities also means that seafood is aplenty here – good news for tourists like us!
When in Busan, the best place to experience a local market atmosphere and to learn a thing or two about seafood is at the Jagalchi Fish Market (자갈치시장). It is also Korea’s largest seafood market.
We were greeted by this sign as soon as we exited the subway station. It is pretty obvious that the sign refers to some fish related term eventhough we can’t read Hangul.
We walked past rows after rows of these roadside stalls. We truly enjoyed the bustling atmosphere of a traditional fish market among female merchants with strong local accents. They were selling mackerel, sea squirts (ascidians), giant squids, whale meat, dried seafood, pickled seafood amongst other sea produces which we could not identify nor name.
bundles of seaweed on trucks
We also saw many weird looking sea creatures here so it felt like being in an aquarium – just that some of these sea cretures were dead and we were walking on a damp surface.
Most patrons picked their seafood downstairs and proceeded upstairs where the food will be served shortly.
I have preloaded some pictures with Korean words into my iPad. When order, I just point to the pictures while the vendor nodded while saying “ahhhhhhh @#$%^ (korean words)”. Patrons seated around us were really cute too. They were trying really hard to communicate with us and to teach us the right method to savour those seafood. They pointed to KampungBoy and asked “oppa“? I swiftly answered “ye” and introduced Kampungboy’s parents as “omma and ahpa“. Who says watching Korean drama is a waste of time? Haha!
banchan (side fishes)
We ordered live nakji as we’ve had this curiosity and insatiable desire to try it. It was being cut into small pieces and served immediately, and seasoned with sesame and sesame oil. The nakji pieces were still squirming on the plate.
We took a bite of these squirming, squiggly tentacles and chewed really, really fast because the suction cups on the arm pieces were still active. We have heard horror stories of people getting choke as the active suction cups can cause swallowed pieces of arm to stick to the mouth or throat. We also need to keep and eye on those tentacles as they were constantly making an attempt to escape the plate. Such busy eyes and mouths!
The tentacles suck onto my tongue/gum and it gave me a really weird sensation. The octopus was tasteless, if not for the spicy red pepper and sesame oil dipping sauce. It was quite an experience and we will definitely recommend everyone to give it a try when in Korea.
Gul (Oyster). In Korea, oysters are called the “milk of the sea” as the Koreans believe that they contain twice as much protein as milk. The best season for oysters is mid-winter to early spring. The oysters were fresh and full of briny sweetness. However, they were lacking in terms of size.
Jeonbok (Abalone). Jeonbok was one of the more expensive shellfish we encountered at Jagalchi Fish Market. Spring to early summer is their best season, we were told. It was compared to wild ginseng in terms of taste and nutrition as it can reduce fatigue and promotes beautiful complexion. We ate them raw by dipping into vinegard red chili pepper paste. It was slightly chewy and sweet.
I can’t recall the Korean name of this red, pricky and puffy looking seafood. It tasted horrible – so you can totally forget about this.
We picked a medium size gwangor (some flat fish) which my friend highly recommend as a spring season delicacy. The fish was very fresh and it had a sweet, delicate taste.
However, unlike salmon, it is a non fatty white fish. Hence, these hwe (sashimi) slices required more chewing action.
Ajjumas (elderly ladies) from the table next to us showed us another way to enjoy those hwes. Place the hwe on the leaves, spread on a layer of red pepper sauce and top it with some kimchis. We then wrapped it up and popped it into our mouths.
Mae Un Tanng. The restaurant made this soup for us from the left-over parts of our fish (the head, leftover flesh and bones) to eat after our sashimi (hwe). Mae Un means spicy and Tang means soup or stew in Korean.
We spent about RM200 in total and we have totally no idea on the breakdowns. However, we felt it is an “alright” price to pay for our meal. Our visit to Jagalchi Fish Market was an eye opening experience. The market bears the lively atmosphere peculiar to port cities and we had fun interacting with the locals while having our lunch.
Jagalchi Fish Market
Jagalchi Station (Busan subway line 1), Exit 10. Turn right onto Jagalchi 3(sam)-gil Street. Walk for 5min, then turn left to arrive at Jagalchi Market.