Sometimes you are cursed by having done things in the wrong order. Years ago I went to Angkor in Cambodia and every historical site I have been to since has suffered by comparison: Machu Picchu seemed like an overtrampled pile of peasant’s huts and classical European forts like Carcassonne became underwhelming. Which is a shame as if I had done those first and then Angkor it would have been a progression of wonder.
And exactly the same is true of Noryangjin fish market which generally appears in people’s top 10 things to do in Seoul. If this had been my first Asian fish market experience I would have been wowed by the dingy workmanlike atmosphere and excited by the freshness of the food.
However, if you have visited Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo the Korean version – Noryangjin – comes across like its little baby brother with mediocre fish and a junior level selection.
Similarly if one compares the food you can get to the wet markets of Hong Kong and, in particular, places like Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market it is, being kind, meh. The cooking, flavours and precison that come as standard in any HK fish restaurant are absent in any of the restaurants I’ve been to in Noryangjin.
That said where Noryangjin does succeed is on atmosphere. If is a damp photogenic place which reminds you that Seoul is not truly the city of coffee shops you might believe from places like Sinsa-dong. And as with most things in Korea you can elevate the experience by judicious application of the official medicine of choice – soju. I can confirm that if you take Noryangjin fish market, visit there late evening on a ‘going out night’ (i.e. later in the week), bring friends and apply soju it becomes a whole different kettle of fun.
If you haven’t been what one does is pick your victims from one of the stalls dotted around (they take cards) and then carry it over to one of the restaurants around, underneath and over the fish market to cook. That is where the soju lives as well : / Through in some live octopus and other types of squeam inducing food that I haven’t had outside of Korean and it can even be a success. And just try to avoid thinking back wistfully to your visit to Tokyo or Hong Kong.
- Address – Dongjak-gu Noryangjin-dong 13-8 / TeJc Gmap here
- Price – it depends on how much fish you buy but KRW 20,000 to 50,000