Whenever I am in Korea, I always visit the markets, especially the fish markets. I love looking at all the fish and seafood — the colours and shapes, the noise — all of it. They are my childhood memories.
On the third day of my last trip, I went to Noryangjin fish market (노량진 수산시장), my essential visit whenever I am in Seoul. As I grew up in a seaside city in the South East, I love fish and seafood, especially hoe (회, sashimi, raw fish). I love firm, fresh, raw fish like sea brill. The sauce has to be the spicy sweet and sour sauce called cho gochujang (초 고추장), and the sashimi thinly sliced. Certain fish I love with the bone in, like spring baby sand dab.
Oyster is my all-time favourite. It was so cheap in the market: £3 for a dozen in the shell. Or, if you buy shelled oysters, can you believe it’s much cheaper? I usually pay £3 for per single oyster in London.
I could not resist: 1 bought 12 oysters and a plate of brill hoe (cost: £13) and went into the restaurant to eat. You pay for the table (£2 per person per fish dish) and they give you the sauce and a few side dishes such as lettuce.
It is a wonderful system to have fresh fish from the market, served in a restaurant. I wonder why they don’t try this in the UK? The fish are all alive. You choose some and ask the restaurant to prepare it however you like, such as sashimi, grilled or stewed. It is fun!
I took my oyster and fish into the restaurant, where two French tourists were having raw fish with Korean side dishes. As soon as I told them that 12 oysters were only £3, they were so surprised, and shot out and bought a dozen with a big smile.
I know the French love their oysters, specially from Brittany. We use to have holidays in Brittany, and we always enjoyed oysters there, though they weren’t cheap.
In the evening, the market and restaurant gets very busy. Young and old alike come into the market to choose fish or seafood and have a wonderful and jolly fish meal with Korean rice wine (makgeolli) or soju.
It is not only a tourist attraction, but local people’s favourite as well. I wish Billingsgate market could adopt this for London. Why not?
Well, I used to say, if I am ever a millionaire I would love to eat oysters everyday with a glass of pink champagne. But I can eat oysters every day in Korea even though I am not a millionaire — without champagne of course!
If you travel to Seoul, you must visit Noryangjin fish market. Get off at Noryangjin station, take Exit 1 and 500m down the road follow the narrow vegetable market and you will be in the fish market.
This article first appeared on Kiejo’s food blog, A taste of Korea / Chilli & lettuce / Mostly Korean and is reproduced here with permission.
Kiejo runs regular cookery classes in her home. The next dates are 19 and 26 January. The menu for 26 January is 1. Tteokbokki; 2. LA galbigui (Short rib of beef BBQ); 3. Seaweed and cucumber salad. Contact kiejosarsfield at hotmail dot co dot uk for details.