Thanks to the 2016 Seoul Food Festival, I had the honor of joining world-class chefs and many other food writers at the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market (鷺梁津水產市場) for a practical introduction to Korean seafood cuisine.
The Noryangjin fish market is the South Korean version of Tsukiji Market (築地市場) in Tokyo, selling seafood wholesale and retail.
The auction starts at 1 a.m. with shellfish, followed by chilled marine fish and shrimp.
Freshly caught marine fish and shellfish are offered after 3 a.m.
The closer to daybreak, the bigger the fish.
Head chefs or buyers from high-end restaurants make their debuts between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., making purchases from their favorite vendors.
Sightseers visit the market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a seafood feast.
It’s a breathtaking scene, with more than 1,000 stalls inside and outside the market.
In Korea, seafood can be roughly classified into wild and cultured.
The packets of ready-sliced raw fish that many stalls sell come from cultured marine life.
The stalls in the dining hall of the new wing of the market, on the other hand, will prepare dishes from fresh wild seafood you have bought just moments ago.
The restaurants slice a fish for sashimi and use its head and bones for a delicious fish stew.
Koreans like thick sashimi slices of sea bass, Japanese seabream or gizzard shad, which they dip in chili garlic paste and wrap with lettuce for a rich texture in the mouth.
The spiciness of Korean dishes may be rather too intense for most Cantonese.
The fish stew can be served as a clear broth or with chili powder, fermented bean paste and instant noodles added to it.
Another unforgettable dish is sannakji, live octopus that is cut into small pieces and immediately served with salt and sesame oil.
The suckers on the tentacles create a weird sensation in the mouth as the creature’s parts struggle against you while you chew on them.
Sea pineapple, a kind of sea squirt, is the most fashionable sashimi at the moment. It is crisp and thin, with a faint taste, so it heavily relies on chilli paste or other dips to give it some flavor.
Enormous crabs from Russia are sold at stalls that specialize in wild marine life.
Whether steamed or boiled, they are equally scrumptious.
Fried rice with crab roe and seaweed is fragrantly sweet.
The Korean wild sea conch is way better than the cultured abalone, and the flavor from its intestines is amazing.
Alternatively, you might consider fermented stingray, which has a surprising flavor like that of Chinese century eggs, but its texture is more like that of pork.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 4.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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