Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jagalchi Fish Market

So yesterday I went to one of Busan's main attractions, the Jagalchi Fish Market. The market is a very narrow alleyway probably half a mile long that has fish vending stalls lined up on each side. Especially considering how narrow the road is, it is an incredibly busy place. I was sort of carried along in the flow of people, always looking down to make sure I didn't step on a fish... or whatever other sea creatures they were selling. And really, the majority of aquatic life was represented, from sting rays to seaweed. Even my Korean companion and guide, Hayoung, did not know what some things were or how they could be eaten.

Needless to say, it is hard to walk through a market like this without getting hungry. So Hayoung and I went inside a warehouse-sized building next to the market for lunch. On the first floor of the building, there were more fish stands and more vendors trying to make a deal. Unlike the market outside, this fish was to be prepared immediately and eaten on the second floor, the restaurant area. And by prepared, I mean either pan fried or served raw. Perhaps because I really only just arrived, I was feeling adventurous. We picked out our fish, along with a small squid, sea cucumber, and oysters, and asked for them to be served raw. The vendor told us to wait upstairs as he hacked off the head of our fish (I winced).

Overall, the meal was very good. The meat is served with side dishes (the ubiquitous kimchi), lettuce wraps, and sauces. I have never had such fresh fish and it was surprising delicious. More difficult to eat was the sea cucumber and the squid. Both of these were still moving on the plate. I expected this from the squid, but I actually didn't notice the sea cucumber was moving until halfway through the meal.

Apparently, the squid is also somewhat dangerous to eat. Even though it is cut into small pieces, the tentacle-suction-cup things still work. The trick is to chew, chew, chew, until you are sure the damn thing won't suck onto your throat as you swallow. This actually happened to my friend. After putting one of the larger, more vigorous pieces in her mouth, and chewing for a minute, her eyes began to water and she looked panicked. So of course I began to panic. How can I help? Want a shot of soju? Heimlich maneuver? In the end she had to grab the tenacious morsel with her fingers and pull it out. (I should mention, tell this story with her permission). Also, this isn't as hardcore as it gets. Sometime, someday, I will try the squid without having it cut up first. This is the true test of a culinary courage.

Anyway, here are pictures of the market and lunch.

Cleaning the fish

Whale Blubber

Ocean in view, oh joy.

Steaming pots


Fish drying

Our lunch, before.

Out lunch, after


First bite (I was pretty nervous, but it isn't bad!)


  1. a vegetarians delight. you are so brave!!

  2. I agree with Cori, very brave! Love seeing the pics and hearing of your adventures, Graham. It will be fun to learn more about Korea through your eyes and experiences.
    ps. Hope you like fish ;)

  3. Awww - I'm jealous! Fresh fish! You should keep a list of the crazy stuff that you eat. On another note, what were Koreans saying about the inaug. yesterday?

  4. About the Inauguration: I don't really know what most Koreans think about Obama. I can tell you it was all over the Korean news. I also saw a stack of books in the book store called "Obama Iagi" (The Obama Story). Actually made me proud of my country.