Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fishing Around. Noryangjin.


So tired, so very, very tired.  My whole body felt tired.....down to my eyelids which felt like they had to really struggle to open up.  Even my brain was tired.  That's exactly how I felt when I woke up this morning.  I think jet lag finally caught up with me.  Had I been on my own today, I would have slept in but George woke up fresh as a daisy and raring to go so I dragged myself out of bed.

We started our day as we had yesterday - with breakfast at Starbucks. I had the exact same meal - a cup of coffee and a bagel.  After I downed the bagel, I wondered whether or not I should have done that.  Nothing like carbs to fuel my sleepiness.  I think I should have had a double shot of espresso instead as I left the place more tired than when I arrived.  This day was not shaping up to be a good one.

Before we left for breakfast, we had put in a load of laundry to do.  I know, we didn't have all that much to wash up but surprisingly, it was enough to fill up the washer.  By the time we got back from breakfast, the load was almost done.  There was no dryer but no worries.  I had come prepared :-)   I strung up my line and George used the drying rack.

With our laundry duties done, we headed out for the day. The first place on the agenda was Noryangjin Fish Market.

The heat and humidity greeted us as we exited.  I didn't expect the weather to be like this in Seoul in September.  I am not a happy camper.  Thankfully, there is air conditioning everywhere even if they don't set the temperature down all that low.

We decided to take a cab to go to Noryangjin - fares are pretty reasonable.  So we hailed one from just outside the apartment building.  As I got in to the cab, I said to the driver, "Noryangjin" and he nodded.  But George wanted to make sure the driver knew exactly where we wanted to go so he whipped out his phone and using Google Translate basically told the driver the same thing I did.   Okay, so I don't think George needed to use Google Translate but it's a good thing that he's doing it as I'm sure we'll need to rely on it later in the trip.  They barely speak English in Seoul, I can only imagine what it will be like when we venture out of the big city.

The taxi driver tripped the meter and immediately submerged us into traffic which was not so bad as it's Sunday today.  I knew Noryangjin was located across the river from where we are staying so the moment we crossed a bridge I knew we were headed in the right direction.

Soon, a large building came into view on our right.  George immediately recognized it as the market but for some reason the taxi driver drove past it.  I thought maybe the entrance was on a street opposite to the one we were on but instead of turning in the direction of the massive building, the taxi driver did a U-turn and doublebacked. Now we were on the opposite side of the road and I thought perhaps we had to do some sort of a crossover to the other side to get to the building?  Then the driver made a right hand turn which would have taken us further away from the building.  Okay, he's lost.  He turned back yet again and now we were pretty much where we were when we first spotted the building.  This time, he pulled over near where there appeared to be a path.  I saw the sign pointing to the market.  While George paid the driver, I walked over to the path and glanced down to see if I could spot the market.  Instead, I spotted produce vendors.  To me that was enough of a sign that we were in the right location.  Now all we had to do were find the fishes.

The path led down to an underpass of sorts.  All along the way were vendors selling produce and dried foodstuff.





The moment I saw a vendor selling dried seafood, I knew we were in the right place.  Noryangjin is near by!


When we emerged from the underpass, we stood before a massive and very modern looking glass and steel structure.  It wasn't quite what I had expected because from the pictures I saw on the web, Noryangjin looked a lot more old and grungy.  Turned out this was the new market.  We would venture into the old market later.


We stepped inside to a very well lit, clean space that was occupied by seafood vendors.

The place is spotlessly clean as far as fish markets go.

Since it's Sunday, many of the vendor booths were empty but there were enough in business to keep us interested.  The variety of creatures they have for sale here is incredible!  I think pretty much if it moves underwater you can find it here.  All I could think was too bad we're leaving Seoul tomorrow or else I would bought a few items.  After all, there was so much to choose from - crabs, clams, shrimp scallops, abalone and of course, fish.


King crabs.  George doesn't like them but how lip smacking good would they be cooked up Singapore chilli crab style?

The sea squirts especially caught my attention.  I had hoped that I would have tried some with Laura yesterday but that didn't happen. 



Oh my God.....the abalone.  I would have bought a few just to try.  But George is not a cook so no go.

Sea snails.  Hmmm....I like land snails but have never tasted a sea snail before.  Putting it on the to try list.

Sea cucumber.  Never had a fresh one before, only dried. 

Cockles.  I LOVE cockles!!

The yellow fish is Olive Flounder, aka Korean flatfish (Paralichthys olivaceus).

George stopped in his tracks when he came across the monkfish.  I'm not sure why they were gutted and splayed open - perhaps to show the liver which is prized?


George wasn't impressed with the monkfish or the rays either but the Southeast Asian foodie in me could only think of the delicious ray cooked up in a light coconut curry.


It seemed like an endless display of live seafood as well as chilled seafood for sale.  Including George and I there were barely a handful of buyers in the market.  Hopefully, business would pick up as the day goes on otherwise, stuff will go to waste.


We made a quick round of the ground floor and then headed upstairs which looked to be the retail and restaurant area.  There was not much retail going on.  I think the space is still not yet fully occupied.

The dried stuff vendors did catch my eye.  I had to check the stuff out.  There were a lot of dried fish that were knotted up in yellow plastic string. 


These dried fish must be prized fish of some sort (pollock perhaps?) because in addition to lots of hanging ones, there were plenty of gift boxed ones as well.



Dried octopus.

The second floor had an exit to a terrace.  We decided to check it out.  There was a nice view of the city though as you can see, it was an overcast day that was shrouded in smog and humidity.


By now, I was beyond exhausted.  Walking through the first floor had perked me up some but being back out in the hot, humid weather reignited my exhaustion.  All I wanted to do was lay down and sleep.  I was so tired I could've slept anywhere.

Thankfully, we were back inside the air conditioned facility after just a few minutes of being outside.  We walked down one corridor and discovered it was a row of restaurants.  I wasn't all that hungry but I was not about to give up on the opportunity to have seafood especially since we had a seafood market one floor down.

Most all the places were empty of diners though - it was still too early for lunch.  I was fine eating in any of them so I let George pick out the place.  My only requirement was that it had air conditioning.  I was fine eating sitting on the floor but I think George wanted a table.


We checked out a couple of places and in both, there was no menu and pretty much no English spoken so it was hard to get information.  I began to suspect that these restaurants were the type of places that you go to where you bring your ingredients to be prepared hence no menu.  Thankfully, the last place we went to, the people spoke just about two words of English.  There was a young man standing nearby.  I couldn't tell if he worked at the restaurant or not but George was able to exchange a few words for us.  We had to string the meaning of his words together and then he waved us to follow him out the restaurant.  My suspicion was correct.  We had to get the ingredients for our meal in the market down stairs.


Back in the market area, George worked on getting our meal together.  I had wanted just something simple, nothing cooked with chili.  George and I agreed on sashimi and I left him to do the buying.  Yes, the guy doesn't do any cooking at home bought the ingredients.  Thankfully, all the stuff here is so fresh, you can't go wrong.



George settled on a slab of tuna and a slab of salmon.   I was ready to devour both.  We then waited while a man, presumably the owner of the stand, cut up the fish into bite size pieces of sashimi.



Our buy wasn't cheap.  It came to more than $50 USD but for the amount of sashimi quality fish that we got, I would say that was not bad.

Our restaurant took our platter of fish and we followed him back upstairs to the restaurant.


Inside, we ordered some drinks and got down to devouring our platter of fish which came with some pickled ginger and pickled garlic.  The restaurant supplied the wasabi, soy sauce and a complimentary plate of kimchi.  There can be no meal in Korea without kimchi.

Oh my God, it was a lot of fish but we polished off every single piece!!  As we ate, we struck up a conversation with a pair of Australian guys sitting at the next table.  They had arrived to the restaurant while we were getting our fish in the market.  From the way they looked and dressed, I was guessing they were in Seoul on a work assignment.  They were definitely not expats.  Apparently, they had bought some crab in the market and were waiting for the restaurant staff to prepare it.  In the meantime, two of their colleagues had also taken a walk with the same restaurant guy to buy sashimi as we had done.  Apparently, they had spotted our platter and it had whetted their appetite to get some.  I tell you, our fish looked good and tasted divine!

Fish was so fresh the texture was like eating butter.  The stuff on the lower right is pickled garlic.


George can eat at any point in time during the day and he's got a good appetite.  In no time, all that was left on the platter were the garlic and the daikon radish.  Even the kimchi was all gone.

We had to pay for our drinks and maybe there was a small service fee but that was it for the restaurant.

After lunch, we made a quick stop at the supermarket.  After my nonstop comments about how tired I was, George decided I needed a pick me up.  Koreans love coffee and you can get endless variations of the stuff....conveniently packaged in lidded paper cups.  George was determined to get me the strongest brew he could find and my only request was that it had to be sugared.  I cannot drink my regular coffee plain let alone a bitter espresso plain.  Today, as far as I was concerned, the more caffeine and the more sugar in the drink, the better.

I sipped on the drink the moment we left the store and I swear I began to already feel myself perking up.  Okay, I know the caffeine didn't kick in that quickly but I hoped it would soon otherwise, I wasn't not going to make it to the event that I had been looking forward to well before we landed in Korea.  George's t-shirt and hat should be a clue on the event that's got me so excited.


At this point, we had spent plenty of time in this place and were ready to leave.  We traced our footsteps out the door.

The first floor as scene on the escalator.  Seriously very clean place.

Outside, another building caught my eye.  We had plenty of time before we had to be at our next destination so I decided to quickly check it out.  Inside was the *old* Noryangjin Fish Market.  This was the look and feel of the market that I had expected to see.  What it lacks in cleanliness and lighting it makes up in character.  This venue is a far more interesting place than the area I had just left behind.

George walked in just a few feet and was too bothered by the smells to venture further.  I went ahead alone and told him I would not be long especially since most of what was for sale here was the same as what was being sold in the new building.


The live cuttlefish did catch my eye though. I've only ever eaten these creatures dry.  For as odd looking as they are, they are incredibly graceful swimmers.  I wonder what they taste like fresh.  Like squid?







I didn't spend much time inside the old market but by the time I left, I swear the caffeine had kicked in and I was raring to get to our next destination.  Back out on the main road, we hailed down another taxi and George did his thing with Google Translate to tell the driver where we wanted him to take us.

Take me out to the ballgame!