Visiting the Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul is a highlight of any trip to Seoul. It is easy to get overwhelmed here, especially with so many vendors hawking an array of fresh live seafood, being a foreigner, and not speaking the local language. But here’s my Noryangjin fish market guide on how to experience this specialty market at the fullest and I’ve also got a really useful tip on how to prevent getting ripped off here.
The easiest way to get here is by subway. Take the Seoul subway to Noryangjin Station (Lines 1 and 9). From Exit 1, walk over the train tracks via the overhead bridge leading to the parking lot, following the English signage. Go down the stairs to get to the market.
Note that this is the older open-air part of the market and while it’s tempting to start buying here right away, I recommend heading to the newer air-conditioned building instead.
The older open-air part of the market.
The newer, air-conditioned building.
1. Buy your seafood.
Personally I shopped at the second floor in the newer air-conditioned building.
Shortlist the seafood that you want to eat but before you get to purchasing, then load up http://www.tpirates.com to get a sense of what the market prices here are so that you can (i) avoid getting ripped off, and (ii) haggle effectively. The website is in Korean but the listed pictures are very helpful in knowing, for example, how much a kilogram of live lobster is supposed to cost or what the typical cost for live abalone is.
The website is mobile-friendly, so scroll down to the images of people (these are vendors) and click on any of them to load the range of published Noryangjin fish market price for specific seafood.
Can’t read Korean? No problem. Just look at the photos and take note of the listed prices.
Prices shouldn’t vary too much from one vendor to another, so go ahead and select the best looking seafood according to your preferences. I bought all my seafood at one go from one vendor, instead of hopping around from one stall to another. They all sell just about the same things anyway and I want to quickly eat my purchases. Haggling is expected so please don’t be shy.
Both times I managed to also specifically ask for crabs with roe. How? Many of these vendors can speak Chinese, so thankfully I was able to request my roe-filled crabs and even solicit serving suggestions. For the most part, the vendors here are really nice and will throw in freebies, like a handful of prawns or upgrade your purchase with a heavier item at no extra charge.
2. Pick your restaurant.
After paying for your fresh seafood, start heading to the row of restaurants on the second floor (at the far right, if you’re coming up from the escalator). Bring your ocean goodies into at least two or three restaurants and have them work out a cost to prepare the seafood for you. Generally there are several ways to prepare your seafood purchases, namely: steaming, grilling, made into soup/stew, served raw, and stir-frying (this one is usually with fried rice).
In addition to the food preparation cost, there’ll also be a basic service fee (i.e. a nominal sum that covers the use of utensils, wet naps, kimchi, dipping sauces, that sort of thing). Other item that you plan to consume along with your seafood, such as soju or other beverages, can be purchased in the restaurant and will be added to your total bill.
I’ve noticed that the prices quoted vary from restaurant to restaurant, so take your time and go with the one that you feel is most reasonable. Also, some restaurants will either charge you extra or totally refuse to cut/crack open crab shells on your behalf – so it’s good to ask first. They will provide scissors and plastic gloves upon request though.
On with food pix!
I just had to try live baby octopus for the first time! Visually it’s disturbing, because these chopped up bits are still actively wriggling in the plate and it’s quite challenging to try pick ’em up with chopsticks. But believe you me, it’s harmless. In fact it’s crunchy and the sesame oil seasoning tastes great. Perhaps not recommended for the weak of heart, but why pass up on this rare food adventure? A few bites is all it takes.
Grilled abalone (4 pieces for ₩10,000 market price), and a bunch of large plump cockles (which you don’t get to see at all in Singapore).
Crab roe! :: heart eyes ::
We requested for some of the roe to be incorporated into fried rice and this turned out to be yum-o.
During my second visit, I tried another variety of crab which came with roe alright but it was watery. Interestingly, the crab meat was very sweet and I was told that the way to eat this crab is to dip the meat into the watery roe for a boost of flavor.
Also had a gigantic lobster that was prepared two ways: the claws were steamed while the body was eaten sashimi-style (not shown, but outrageously delicious~).
Last but not least, some of you may have already seen this posted on my Instagram @moonberry. This is another type of crab and while the meat wasn’t as sweet, it was adequately succulent but the grand prize here had to be the crab roe that was spilling out of the shell. I’d never encountered such a disproportionate roe to meat ratio in a single crab before! This was definitely worth it, it only cost ₩50,000 at the fish market! What an incredible bargain.
No trip to Seoul is complete without a visit to this fish market. I went there twice and both times I had a truly enjoyable experience. On my first visit, we spent a total of ₩50,000 for two people (crab, abalone, cockles, baby octopus) and this includes the restaurant charges. On my second visit, we spent a total of ₩300,000 for eight people (lobster, two different kinds of crabs, flat fish sashimi, prawns, abalone, baby octopus, spicy fish stew) and this amount also includes the restaurant charges. O_O?! Super affordable if you ask me.
Compared to Tsukiji in Tokyo and Addiction Aquatic Development in Taipei, I’d say this fish market in Seoul is the best one I’ve ever been to. Go, go, go, and let me know how your experience there is. Share with me stories and/or photos of the magnificent seafood you have at Noryangjin Fish Market, will you? 🙂