Dining at Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market

noryangjin fish market seoul

Visiting markets of a new city makes you understand the city better — I can’t agree more with this. You get a glimpse into local people’s life as you visit their local market. My recent trip to the Noryang-jin Fisheries Wholesale Market was an interesting one. I didn’t know the bustling and literary “wet”  market, brimming with distinct fishy smell could look so picturesque, even with my rookie photography skills.

bridge link to noryangjin market

The market is located at the very center of Seoul, right beside the Han River. Traffic is convenient as it is just located at a walkable distance from the Noryangjin Station (노량진역) Line No.1. Embarking our journey to the market from the subway train station building, take note of the location of this pedestrian bridge from my picture above, which is very easy to spot as it is just located right behind the Noryangjin Station.

how to go to noryangjin market

Noryangjin Subway Station Line No.1. Picture was taken on the pedestrian bridge. 

After getting onto the pedestrian bridge, you would see the Noryangjin Station on your right-hand side. Just continue to walk down the bridge, and you will reach an open rooftop carpark. The Market is just located right below the carpark.

the Noryangjin Fisheries wholesale market

Being the largest fisheries wholesale market in Seoul (Largest fisheries market in Korea is located at Busan, the Jagalchi Fisheries Market), this 24 hours market is said to be filtered in and out by 30,000 visitors per day. Reputed to be the home for the freshest seafood in Seoul, it is not hard to spot locals shopping for their daily meal in this enormous market which consist about 700 stalls.

shops of noryangjin

View from the 2nd level of the market.

korean ajumma busy arranging seafood

the busy noryangjin fisheries market

huge crabs at the market

Variety is the keyword here at Noryangjin Fisheries Market. Over 830 different kinds of seafood items ranging from dried fish, fermented fish, vegetables, and a wide assortment of fresh seafood including different kinds of shrimps, scallops, king crabs, living octopus, lobsters and so on. A must-visit for a foodie.

all kinds of shrimps

fresh fishes at noryangjin market korea

fresh salmon at noryangjin fisheries market

One of my favourite, salmon. Excellent presentation, isn’t it? 

shelf fishes

The seafood in the market varies according to different seasons in Korea. Here is the list of the must-eats in each season by visitseoul.net:

In the winter: flathead mullet (숭어), yellowtail (방어), Spanish mackerel (삼치), chambok (참복), halibut (넙치), octopus (참문어), and snow crabs (대게).

In the spring: flounder (가자미), Spanish mackerel (삼치), black sea bream (감성돔), snapper (참돔), parrot fish (돌돔), hakkkongchi (학꽁치), chammuneo (참문어), and prawns (보리새우).

In the summer, eel (붕장어), hwangdom (황돔), bass (농어), parrot fish (돌돔), grouper (능성어), filefish (말쥐치), and abalone (전복) .

In the autumn, dotted gizzard shad (전어), mackerel (고등어), skate (홍어), filefish (말쥐치), sil squid (실오징어), and small octopus (낙지) are in season.

at the back of the hustle and bustle of the market

Basically, there are 2 ways of enjoying the seafood here at Noryangjin market. You can either purchase and bring home to prepare your seafood the way you usually do, or purchase whatever you want out here and then bring it to any restaurant located at the 2nd level, or the basement. 2nd option seems to be a more popular way here. Some restaurants seem to have tie-ups with certain stalls out there, and it is said that you could get a better price by selecting these pre-pairing offer.

instant sashimi at the market in seoul

Fishes were processed immediately after you made your order with the stalls. Some fishes are nicely sliced for “sashimi”, in Korean, 희 [ Read: Hoeh] So what is the difference between “hoeh” and “sashimi”?

This is not the 1st time I encountered the same question. Well, hoeh and sashimi are essentially same-same but different, in a sense, they are all eaten raw. However, fishes that use as hoeh here in Korea are more solid/ chewy in texture. Most of them are white flesh, whereas, in Japan, sashimi in the red flesh are more popular, the fatter, the better.

catch fish

According to the Professionals at the market, it was the perfect season for dotted gizzard shad, 전어 [read: jeon-o], Flounder 광어 [read: gwang-o] and Mackerel 고등어 [read: go-deung-o] so we decided to try these out at the market.

catch the fish at fisheries market

our catch of the day

Gwang-o: The yellow one with white parts in the middle; Jeon-o: the small ones;  and the Go deung-o. 

Not too sure what fish is what fish though. Our kind reader provided some information down there at the comment box. You may want to check them out! ; )

cleaning the fish

Ajussi proceed with cleaning the scales right after it was scooped. 

noryangjin market in korea

ready sashimi pack

restaurant right beside the market

We went to this restaurant right in front of the stall after purchasing our fishes. (There are more upstairs, but we were just too overwhelmed and decided to settle down at the first restaurant we saw.) Here at the Noryangjin Market, the ajussi will pack the hoeh and the bones together. All you need to do is to pass EVERYTHING to the restaurant, and they will prepare the food according to your liking.

All the restaurants here will charge you an “entrance fee” (KRW 3000 per person). Additional cooking charges apply according to the seafood you purchased. Remember, if you purchase sashimi grade fishes from the market outside, you’ll be given a packet of fish bones when they are done with the cleaning and cutting outside. This packet of bones is used to make Mae-un-tang 매운탕 (Spicy Fish Soup), a standard dish to order here when you eat Korean sashimi. So we ordered the Mae-un-tang 매운탕 (Spicy Fish Soup) using the bones, and eat the rest of the fish fresh. Other than the entrance fee, we paid an extra KRW50,000 for the cooking fee and the soup. There were 5 of us so we each paid KRW 10,000 for the cooking.

nrj22

Our Hoeh.  raw fish plate in autumn

raw fish with lettuce wrap

Unlike the Japanese Sashimi that serves together with wasabi and soy sauce, the Korean serve hoeh with sliced garlic, go-chu-jang (chili sauce). Here we learn to appreciate Korean “sashimi” the Korean way—wrapping up the hoeh in the lettuce with some go-chu-jang and garlic, and voila!

spicy fish soup

Our spicy fish-bone soup.  spicy fish soup and raw fish sashimi in korea

Writer’s Note:  The seasonal fishes didn’t turn out to be memorable. The ONLY hoeh that I like during the meal was the olive flounder. To me, this particular meal is merely a been-there-done-that kind of experience. However, many of my friends who had abalone, shrimps, salmon, octopus and snow crabs had a blast there at Noryangjin Market.

Personally, I feel it is a place worth visiting as it gives a gist of an ordinary Korean’s life here at the market. You get to see locals bargaining and picking up their groceries, which is really different from the usual tour like Dongdaemun, Myeong-dong or palace tour one may arrange. What is more, this place is surprisingly photogenic too!

As for the food itself, I would say it all depends on what you purchase, which restaurant you go, and what type of cooking did you select. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the fish this time round, but I am seeing myself going back to try their big fat scallops, shrimps and live octopus as well. : )

Comment after my recent visit in 2015:

This place is getting more and more crowded as tourist flocking to get the “real taste” of a Korean fish market. I am quite unhappy with the rather aggressive, hard-sell strategy adopted by the stalls nearer to the entrance (aka the most crowded lane of the whole market). However, I must say this market continues to provide the freshest catch out of the whole Seoul city so if you are still keen, all you need is to get out of the very crowded first lane in the market and go all the way into the middle, where real locals do their shopping. But again, if you have problems communicating in Korean, perhaps the Chinese speaking vendors at the very crowded, extra-popular first lane could help you better.

noryangjin fisheries market in seoul

Exit to the open carpark.

ootd with cambridge satchel
me and my cambridge satchel bag

my cambridge satchel 14" vintage

More on my Cambridge Satchel Classic 14″ Vintage check HERE (Click) 

5 Comments

  • Johan says:

    Thank you for your review on your trip to Korea, it really help me to decide where to go.

    However if I may say a few word on your choice of fish…..

    The flounder or gwang-o is the true white meat fish among three , or shiromi in Japanese. Shiromi refers to white meat fish of any species.

    The dotted gizzard shad or jeon-o, is kohada in Japanese, it is not considered a white meat due to its fat content. So it is best cured before eaten raw, as it is very strong tasting fish.

    The so called ” mackerel or go-deung-o” is actually a pacific blue mackerel ( Scomber australasicus ) aka Gomasaba in Japanese. The korean go-deung-o is interchangeable terms even for Norwegian blue mackerel as well.

    BUT unfortunately, the one in the photo was more like a ” Mullet fish” which is quite a common fish in Southeast Asia including Singapore wet market and supermarket. Mullet family has several types (Mugil Spp , Liza Spp and Valamugil spp), so my good guess the one in photo was not a mackerel but a fish from the mullet family.

    Despite that, I truly enjoyed reading your travel journey in Korea, Thank you

    • Pheuron says:

      hi Johan!
      I have minimal knowledge about fish and thank you for kindly pointing out the errors ; D
      If you plan to visit Busan, you may want to check out Jakalchi Fish Market as well. Enjoy your trip!

      • Johan says:

        Hi Pheuron

        Thanks for the kind reply, it is just happen I am a seafood enthusiast, pardon me if I was too detailed in describing the fish, I hope I am not putting any reader to sleep after reading my comments.
        Ah yes, we are planning to go to Busan as well, to visit the Jagalchi fish market.
        Anyway, thank you for posting your experiences in South Korea, it helped me a lot with my itenaries for the end of December Trip.

  • Johan says:

    Hi Pheuron

    We are on our last nite in Seoul, tomorrow we will be going back home. Anyway, I want to thank you for writing your experiences in Korea, certainly made us wanted to return again in the future. Anyway, I want to post “short” deduction on the recent trip to Noryangjin and Jagalchi fish marker in Busan to the lesser extent.

    I must say agree to your recent experiences in Noryangjin market. ” Something ” must be done with the Noryangjin ” Seafood ” Market. I noticed that the way , seafood being sold are being ” structured ” to sell targeted at certain nationality. I looked at the live seafood there from one end to the other end , the species are all the same from the first row to the second row.

    To me , a fish market should not be entirely ” lookalike ” in the species offered although it is understandable that season may affect what are available. For disclosure , I did not check the third row and so forth because I went in the evening, the stall beyond the third row already closed for the day. I did noticed those third row onwards are selling fresh chilled, thawed out seafood, dried or processed ones.

    I have been to one of the seafood market in the neighbouring country ( outside Japan), when it comes to fish market, there should be diversification in species offered. I did not see that in Noryangjin.

    In a typical stall, I could see the top tier fishes are knifejaw fish or Ishidai, red bream ( madai, sorry no idea the name in Korean) and strangely enough sub-tropical grouper species !, the 2nd tier are Korean black rock fish ( chopi bolrak) , striped mullet ( Song-O) and the 3rd tier are mainly and the majority Korean flounder ( kirum- gajami) and for the winter December , HONGO or Hamachi ( any Japanese Yellow tail / Seriola quinqueradiata size 2.5kg tp 3.5kg) and those above 3.5kg called Buri in Japanese for the same specie.

    I know Korean fisheries caught more varieties than this, not to mention Sub-tropical Groupers are found in the Noryangjin really baffled me (I will check on that later). Perhaps the species presented there were already geared towards certain market. Not to mention, the atmosphere already charged with presence of language translators.

    I did made the purchase with one of the stall, without the presence of translator but though I did not suffer any so called over charging situation there, I felt something did not appear that make Noryangjin as an authentic Fish market, left there feeling unsatisfied. Later in Busan I went to Jagalchi fish market in Busan , I was troubled to see similarities and for disclosure, I did not make an entire tour of Jagalchi due to pressed for time.

    Dont get me wrong, whenever I went , I am glad to make certain contribution to the local economy, but I have to say something missing in the Noryangjin fish market which unfortunately might betray what a fish market should be.

    Today , I went to the Lotte Mart, and I noticed that the seafood products there are just as competitive as the ones in the Noryangjin. Of course, a mart definitely lacked the excitement of going to the market. I purchased Korean hweh products, and what really surprised was that a large flounder hweh at least a kg plus cost KRW 20.000 !!! in lotte Mart. For those who wanted to eat hweh without the hassle of negotiation in the fish market, this was quite a good option. Again , this was my opinion, some might not agree , feel free to visit those fish market.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog and it did help me in my trip in south Korea…..Thank you for posting your blog on your experiences in South Korea….Have a good and safe travel whereever you are…

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