What a 180º shift from the much more well-known yet much less welcoming-to-foreigners’ Tsukiji Market in Tokyo…the ajumma (아줌마, middle-aged/married women) at Jagalchi Market
(자갈치시장), in Busan, South Korea were actually beckoning patrons to feast on shellfish and sea pineapples – more on those later – right at their stalls!
Yep, this place is quality.
Likely established in 1876 and named for the gravel (jagal/자갈) that surrounded the food market/port at the time, it only became a major center in the fishing trade after the Korean War, when many refugees from other parts of the country made it to southerly Busan.
With a bit of the market’s history out of the way, let’s take a short tour of the area:
If you hop on line 1 of Busan’s metro, you can easily get to Jagalchi market. In fact, since Busan’s main train station downtown is also on line 1, you could make an easy day trip from Seoul and other Korean cities using KTX, the national high speed rail. Or…you could just stay where you are, because if you’re already in South Korea, excellent food already surrounds you.
Unlike the coy version in Shinjuku, Tokyo, this nearby crab specialty restaurant isn’t ashamed in the least to remind you that you’re in Jagalchi town.
A boat by a seafood market? No way.
I suppose the market motif is way too 21st century Chinese airport – that is, boring and uninspired – but unlike Chinese airports, edible food lies within. Come to think of it, that makes it years ahead of US airports too.
See, I visited this place in 2009, long before I could read Korean. Even though I can read it now, that doesn’t mean I understand it. Thus, at the time, I thought this was a statue of a (male) Korean pilot.
But what sense does that make??? Looking up the words now, it reads “Jagalchi Grandma.”
Dried squid…and now I’ve pinpointed the exact moment I lost the attention of half of the voters in NYC and south Florida.
From the polychromatic family of sea squirts comes 멍게 (meong ge) or in Japanese 真海鞘 (マボヤ/maboya), less commonly known as sea pineapples. They’re hermaphroditic, spontaneously expel water and are apparently best served raw or pickled. I didn’t get to try them, and I wouldn’t suggest calling someone a sea squirt either.
Seafood. Count me in.
Pretty sure this sign reads something to the effect of “if it’s raw, dig in.” But don’t quote me on that.
The main event. Oyster. Soy sauce and wasabi. Garlic and green chilies. Some kind of wonderful fermented bean paste. Ubiquitous carafe of water.
Have you been to Busan and/or Jagalchi Market?