Experiencing the Sights, Smells and Tastes of Noryangjin Fish Market with Seafood Feast (Abalone, Tiger Prawns and Fish)2 March, 2015
It is quite an experience to visit Noryangjin Fish Market 노량진수산시장 in Seoul – be prepared for an assault of the senses from smell to sight to taste. Noryangjin Fish Market is a 24-hour, 7 days a week wholesale fish market – if you are here very very early, you can see the fish auctions in the morning. If you are not an early riser, that’s also ok as throughout the day, you can see a display of all kinds of marine creatures in the stalls and all are edible. The market gets quite crowded in the evenings with the dinner crowd craving for seafood and drinks. I suggest going to the market around 11am – all the stalls are open and you can have a seafood lunch there after exploring the market.
I do recommend a few “precautions” if you are visiting Noryangjin Fish Market. If you are planning to go to other attractions after your visit to the Noryangjin Fish Market, bring along a change of clothes – if you stay too long in the fish market, you will have a fishy smell lingering in your clothes. The floor of the market is quite wet and dirty (think fishy smell) so wear shoes that are not too slippery and not too thin that water will soak through it.
To get to Noryangjin Fish Market, (if you are staying in Myeongdong J Hill Hotel), take the subway from Myeongdong Station (Line 4) to Seoul Station and transfer to Line 1 where you will then alight at Noryangjin Station (Exit 1).
Once you get off the train, you will know you are near Noryangjin Fish Market because of the fishy smell in the air. Take exit 1 and walk across the overhead bridge to the fish market. Once you cross the overhead bridge, you will need to walk across a carpark (the carpark is at the top deck of the building that houses the Noryangjin Fish Market) – just take the steps down a floor or two and you will see the Noryangjin Fish Market from up top. The level you will be in is the restaurant level – there are a lot of restaurants here and I will soon explain what these restaurants have to do with the fish market downstairs. Take the stairs further down to reach the fish market proper.
There are many many stalls at Noryangjin Fish Market and almost every hawker will try to sell you their fishes, prawns etc. Take your time to look through the selection of marine creatures on display and ask for prices and compare across the stalls (just don’t bargain and agree to a price too soon – they will hold you to it). Once you get a sense of the rough pricing, then pick a hawker you are comfortable dealing with. Because of the number of Chinese tourists visiting this market, language barrier isn’t quite a problem as there are quite a few hawkers who speak fluent Mandarin.
Most hawkers are quite ok with you taking pictures of their fishes, abalone, squids, prawns – they are quite used to tourists after all. Just be prepared for pushy sales tactics.
You might be thinking “why should i buy a fish or prawns here at Noryangjin Fish Market – I don’t know how to cook or can’t cook it back at the hotel” – all stalls here at Noryangjin Fish Market partner with the restaurants at level 2 and 3 above. You can select and buy the fish and other seafood at the fish market – the hawker will scoop up the fish, kill or stun it and you pay for the fish. Then a runner from the partner restaurant will take the fish (or whatever you buy) and guide you to the restaurant where you pay to have it cooked in whatever way you prefer (steamed, fried, fried etc.).
From my own research at various forums on other travellers’ experience at the fish market, I have compiled a rough price list for seafood sold at the Noryangjin Fish Market (non-exhaustive and not necessarily the most updated):
One whole fish will cost around 20,000 to 60,000 won depending on the weight. Bigger fish command higher prices.
King crab from Sakhalin, Russia: 80,000 won and up for a 1.5 kg crab which can be shared by 2-4 persons
When in season (spring and fall), Flower crab: 10,000 to 15,000 won per crab
Abalone: 3-4 for 10,000 won
Oysters: 12 for 5,000 won – oysters are very cheap in Korea (if you buy several stuff, you can ask them to throw in a plate of oysters for free)
For the more adventurous, try sannakji (live baby octopus chopped up and still squirming – to be eaten dipped in hot sauce or sesame oil – careful to chew many times before swallowing as it can get stuck in your throat and you can suffocate to death).
If you are bad at bargaining or don’t know the market price of seafood, then I don’t recommend that you buy at the first hawker you see as you might get charged exorbitant rates. Compare the prices of a few stalls first before reaching a decision.
Below is a typical process of buying seafood at Noryangjin Fish Market. Do note that you will have to pay for the seafood twice – once for the materials i.e. the fish, oyster, abalone (whatever you ordered from the hawker at the fish market) directly to the hawker and then another time for the cooking and preparation of the food for your consumption directly to the restaurant staff. There will typically be a restaurant runner at each of the hawker stall so you can pre-negotiate the prices for cooking whatever you bought. If you prefer to deal with a local Korean hawker, a calculator always come in handy despite the language barrier. If you don’t have a good feeling dealing with the restaurant runner, then just take the seafood you bought and go to any of the many restaurants at 2nd and 3rd floor.
Most of the restaurants don’t have table and chair seating arrangements – guests sit on mats just like how local Koreans do it so you will have take off your footwear and keep them in the provided bags.
Enjoying our seafood feast at one of the restaurants at Noryangjin Fish Market – not sure which one is this – didn’t get the name.
Our dishes – fried fish …
… tiger prawns and …
… abalones. Don’t remember how much all these cost but not very cheap meal (although the abalones are a bargain since it is local specialty).