Seoul's Noryangjin Fish Market

Two months later and I'm still fantasizing about this maeun-tang, or spicy fish soup.

Cod and a few clams in a Korean chili paste-laced broth and topped with shiso leaves: this is a poor woman's seafood heaven. I ate a version of this soup practically every day in Seoul, the best one from a restaurant on the second floor of Seoul's Noryangjin Fish Market. For spice fiends, it's hard to resist a bubbling hot, fiery red soup that comes with its own burner.

While Noryangjin is lesser known than Tokyo's famed Tsukiji fish market, it rivals Tsukiji in sheer size. You can bet most of Seoul's restaurants source their fish from this wholesale arena. My photos can't do justice to the sprawling market, the rows and rows of exotica in my landlubber's eyes.

(So although these photos are a couple months old, now that I finally retrieved them from the USB card reader screw-up I couldn't resist sharing them. Due to painfully slow internet, I only uploaded a few here; the rest can be viewed in my Flickr set.)

We went in the mid-afternoon and were spared the crowds. These crabs were mere minutes of steaming away from being supper.

I am thinking this dried fish photo would be great to tack up on your door on Halloween.

These phallic-looking things I cannot figure out.

Octopus, deconstructed.

More than a handful of vendors were slicing up fresh sashimi for customers to snack on or bring home. You can also take the freshly sliced fish to one of the market's many restaurants to dunk in a hotpot or hand over for the chef to cook at his discretion.

Our meal at one of the restaurants upstairs, which included sashimi, the aforementioned unforgettable fish stew, and about 10 kinds of banchan, came out to around 16 USD for two people. One of the best banchan dishes, and by best I mean delicious in its simplicity, was this plate of hard-boiled squail eggs sprinkled with sea salt.

Is it too much to ask that every port city have a fish market where you can dine on the day's catch, on the spot?