Seoul has a reputation for being one of the best places in South Korea to visit for fresh seafood. The problem is that most of us, average restaurant diners and grocery store shoppers, have no idea what process really happens behind the scenes when it comes to getting fish from the ocean to the table.
A quick trip to the Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul will not only educate you, but entice you to perhaps try a quick bite of fish fresher than youâ€™ve ever tasted in your life.
What is the Noryangjin Fish Market
The Noryangjin Fish Market is, as noted, one of the largest fish markets in the area. Because of its location on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea is surrounded by three different seas â€“ the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the Sea of Japan. There are dozens of sea ports scattered throughout South Korea, but fifteen of them deliver fresh seafood to Seoul on a daily basis.
The Noryangjin Fish Market is formally operated by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. While the capital city of Seoul has a number of fresh seafood markets, Noryangjin is the largest. It was originally established in 1927 and moved to itâ€™s current building in 1971.
The market sits on over 66,000 square meters (or 216,535 square feet) and features more than 700 shops. Some sell fresh seafood while others sell dried fish products. Because the market has a strong agricultural section youâ€™ll find not only fish, but vegetables and fruits as well.
What Youâ€™ll See when You Visit
Depending on the time of day you visit, the market may be bustling with activity. The early morning hours are when wholesale auctions take place and retail sales take place until up to 9 in the evening. The earlier in the day you visit, the busier and more active the market will be.
When you first step into the market youâ€™ll be overwhelmed by the amount of seafood on display. Youâ€™ll see more than simple fish here. Bins full of fresh crabs, prawns, sea cucumbers, and clams are scattered throughout the shops. You may even see salmon, stingrays, and small sharks. Some seafood, like the anchovies, lobsters, baby octopus, and ribbonfish, are kept live in tanks.
Sometimes you fish will be wrapped, purchased after being kept on ice. In other cases, you can purchase fresh fish, still alive, packaged in a plastic bag full of water to keep it alive until you get it home to cook on your own.
When to Visit the Market
When you visit the market will depend largely on what youâ€™d like to see. The auction, selling fish at wholesale prices to those looking to resell or stock stores and restaurants,Â runs from 1 in the morning until 6 in the evening each day. Fish can also be sold to retail buyers, like local citizens or tourists, at non-auction prices. The retail sales begin at 3 in the morning and run until 9 in the evening.
The wholesale market is open every day except for Sunday and is always closed on holidays. The retail vendors, on the other hand, work seven days a week and are open throughout the entire year.
If youâ€™d like to taste a fresh seafood dish native to Seoul, a trip to the Noryangjin Fish market is definitely in order. There are well over a dozen different restaurants within the market, each serving up the freshest dishes possible. In some cases, youâ€™ll be able to choose your own seafood â€“ sometimes live – and it will be gutted, cleaned, and cooked to suit your tastes.
Hungry for a fresh seafood dish? Forget dining in any other restaurant. No fish will be as fresh as the fish served right within the market. Take Subway Line #1 from your Seoul hotel and get off at Noryangin Station. The best fish youâ€™ve ever had in your life will be just a few steps away!