Text and images by Elizabeth Tong @ Makansutra
Busan is South Korea’s second largest city and the port city is known for its fresh seafood. Located at the edge of Busan’s Nampo Port is Korea’s largest seafood market – Jagalchi Market. The Busan Jagalchi Festival is held every autumn around mid-October (although the market is open all-year round) for people to experience the unique culture of Korea’s largest port city.
Just like its trademark slogan “Oiso! Boiso! Saiso!” (“Come! See! Buy!” in the Busan accent) it draws hordes of visitors – local and foreigners – there for the fresh seafood purchases, food tasting and sightseeing. Never mind the strong fishy smell that can even travel down three streets away.
Running between two streets (Chungmu-dong and Nampo-dong,), the expansive market is split into two main sections – one for fresh seafood and the other for dried seafood.
Visitors who want to get a taste of Busan can take their pick from the freshest catch of the day – straight from the Busan Harbour . Have it prepared in front of your eyes and served immediately. You can choose to have your seafood indoors (sitting on the floor – the typical Korean dining style) or dine alfresco (like we did in the cool autumn weather).
Move on to the huge indoor building near the outdoor dining tents and there is a wet market on the first floor that sells nothing but fresh seafood in tanks and trays. The second floor is the dining area, where after you have bought the seafood from the first floor, you can choose to go to the second floor and have the ahjummas (Korean aunties) there prepare a meal for you.
At Jagalchi, the vast variety seafood has never looked fresher, cleaner, vibrant and more odd. We were ready to see the famous live octopus here, but we definitely were not prepared to see the even more unusual sea critters on display in tanks and buckets.
You don’t usually see so many varieties of fish, shellfish, squids and crustaceans in any of the wet markets in Singapore. If you love seafood, it doesn’t get any fresher than this. There is funky sashimi like raw monnye (sea squirts) and gaebul (also known as sea penises). The gaebul was still moving after it’s de-skinned and served. You don’t have to wait for the annual festival in October to visit the place as the fishy-smelling market is here to welcome you all-year-round.