on… 자갈치시장 (Jagalchi Fish Market)

Posted: 30/12/2011 in Travel
Tags: , , , ,

Jagalchi Fish Market is the biggest fish market in S.Korea and is located in the Nampo-dong area of Busan. I rate it as one of the best things to see in Korea even if you don’t like fish.

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The first time I visited I was blown away by the noise, colour, and incredible smells from the almost endless number of fish stalls. In a country where modern marketing efficiency can make cities predictable and  packaged to a pedantic level, Jagalchi is a big fishy slap in the face. It is a huge tourist draw and there is clearly a lot of development, but in this place you can see the raw undiluted Korea which I sometimes forget about. The old ajummas wear brightly coloured wellies and aprons, the old men squat over mounds of fresh squid lying all over the concrete floor, the boats come in thick and fast and the unloading bay is crammed flush against the outdoor section of the market. There is a constant sound of bartering, arguing, and high energy market banter on all sides. There are tourists wandering round but it doesn’t detract in any way from the madness of the market, it’s just another level of colour adding to the general confusion. The indoor section of the market is a large 6 storey building where the trading is done on the ground floor and the eating is done upstairs. The vendors are constantly hosing down the blood and guts of the produce which spills onto the floor. If you venture upstairs you will be harrangued by the ‘restaurant’ owners trying to get you to sample their raw tuna. Not a moment is lost on a busy trading day, if the fish ladies aren’t selling fish then they are gutting fish at knife speeds which would make enthusiastic assassins lose hope.

I’ve always been a big seafood and fish eater so I was worried that it may turn my stomach and put me off fish for life. My interest in seeing the turnover process from the boats to the stalls meant that I wasn’t really worrying about the gastronomic side of things. I was simply interested in the industry, it helped that I took a camera and not an empty stomach. I am a person who through curiosity and hunger will eat almost anything. However, I think I may have found my limit at the fish market.My main problem was with the tanks of live sea cucumbers. they look appalling and I cannot imagine ever being hungry enough to eat one. If anyone has tried this weird creature, which should be called ‘sea-dick’, I would like to meet them. Maybe they taste better cooked or stuffed with garlic but I would need a serious amount of soju to even consider trying one

The fish market is in a really interesting blue-collar area pf Busan, which is itself a very blue-collar city. As you walk along the coast from the market you can see the dried fish market and various shabby buildings until you reach the bridge which separates this rough edged working neighbourhood with the sleek chic of the new Lotte development. The new silver Lotte department store is a real landmark and is much more interesting than most department stores. It has a water show, an outstanding roof garden and will be the location of Korea’s second Lotte World Theme Park. It sits like a giant 21st century tanker which will eventually sail through the rickety shacks of the fish markets and send the old ladies jumping into the ocean to be eaten by all the marine organisms they have been bullying for almost their entire lives. I hope the development doesn’t end this most colourful of places because I kind of like those weathered old ladies and of course, I love eating fish.

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