Directions: Exit the subway station and follow the smell of fish. You’ll have to cross over a bridge to a short, old building. Signs are all in Korean, so really just follow your nose.
Noryangjin Fish Market is huge. Think Billingsgate Market 4 or 5 times over, sprawling with stalls selling a wide array of the most amazing seafood you can think of, most of which are still alive and swimming around in their tanks. Do as the locals do – pick a stall and select the seafood that appeals to you, then take your catch of the day to the kitchen (the stall owners will probably point you to the kitchen affiliated to their stall) where they’ll prepare your seafood in whatever way you want. If you’d rather not see your meal when it’s still alive, you can just go upstairs to any of the (more expensive) restaurants where you can order from a menu. But there’s really no point kidding yourself and paying a premium for basically the same thing – ultra fresh seafood, so fresh it was still alive just before you sat down.
While on our way to Noryangjin we had made a list of what we wanted to eat for lunch, so when we got there we basically cut to the chase and wasted no time wondering around. We bought a platter of sashimi, some prawns, 2 blue crabs and some squid, and were led down a little (and very wet) alleyway, into a restaurant in the basement, where we took off our shoes, sat down, and waited eagerly for our seafood feast.
The sashimi was very fresh, and a really big portion for USD$15 as well. We would have definitely preferred to have salmon, but it seems that none of the stalls do salmon sashimi. Our mystery fishes had some really delicate flavours, and there was so much sashimi that we ended up playing around with our sauces, and realized that ground garlic mixed in with soy sauce is a really good dip for our sashimi platter.
The first dish to arrive was sannakji. This was the dish K most wanted to have. It’s an incredibly simple dish. The recipe would go something like this: chop up the live squid into small pieces, put it on a plate and serve immediately. What appears in front of you is the most amazing sight – a plate of chopped up squid, still wriggling around in the throes of death. It was just extraordinary. The suction pads on the tentacles are truly working overtime, sticking to the plate as if the squid were struggling not to be eaten. When you attempt to eat a piece, you can actually feel the suction pads attach themselves to the insides of your mouth.
It was a bizarre experience eating something that is still ‘alive’. In actual fact, the squid is most definitely dead. The wriggling pieces are just the effects of rigor mortis, and not a demonstration of how much pain the squid is in. This was definitely a novelty dish. The squid itself doesn’t taste of much, and after the whole plate of sashimi and now this sannakji, we needed some cooked food badly.
The next dish to come was definitely cooked. It was our prawns, lightly salted and grilled. They smelt fantastic, as grilled prawns always do, but were completely overcooked. Pity.
After quite a long wait, our crabs were ready to be served. We had asked the kitchen to cook our crabs in a spicy soup, and it was lovely. The soup had the fresh sweet taste of crab, and was seasoned with a very good amount of spice to give our tastebuds a really nice kick. The crabs were delicate and wonderful, with a nice amount of crab roe to enhance the flavour even more.
Overall this was a great experience. We need places like these in Singapore, where you can be guaranteed fresh seafood all the time. The kitchen charges a small amount to prepare your food, and for the kimchi, rice, sauces and vegetables. It’s a great way to gorge yourself silly on seafood, without leaving central Seoul at all!