Jagalchi Market, Busan, Korea
My love of all things seafood is older than me – it’s in my blood. My mother was born and raised in Busan, a port town in South Korea. And if there’s one thing you gotta do in Busan, it's eating the local seafood. Is it a coincidence that my family ended up in Seattle when we immigrated to the States?
Pike Place Market in Seattle has fishmongers makin’ fish fly, but the magic of the merchants in Busan’s Jagalchi Market is next level. Fish, octopus, or whatever seafood you fancy transformed from their natural state to a beautiful spread of perfectly sliced and diced plated yumminess.
Tourists love checkin’ out the aisles and aisles of vendors outside or inside the massive market hall hawking fish, shellfish, and whatever else the fisherman can catch locally. But many miss the magic – do how the locals do and get your grub on.
The best way to tackle Jagalchi is to walk around until you find a fishmonger that makes you wanna stop. Maybe it’s the variety displayed? Or maybe it’s a warm smile?
Not sure what to grub on? Mention the seafood you enjoy eatin’, your budget, and ask for suggestions. And make sure to negotiate! You may not get a discounted price, but they’ll probably throw in a little somethin’ extra. Koreans are big on “service”.
The fishmonger will gather the goods in a bucket for your approval. Once you give the ok, they’ll call one of the restaurants upstairs to check for availability. If the restaurant has space, someone with a bucket magically appears then disappears with the goods that the fishmonger expertly guts. Next, an escort arrives to guide you to a table. Order a bottle of soju. Wait for the banchan to arrive… BOOM! Your seafood perfectly fillet, sliced, and plated by the restaurant ajumma.
My mom was in her element, my father kept ordering one last bottle of soju, and I couldn’t stop inhaling everything within reach. And then... shit got real. Our restaurant ajumma started chattin’ us up. She was curious about us – foreigners that kinda felt familiar. Turns out her husband’s brother is my father’s former business partner in Busan!!! Of all the fishmongers and restaurants at Jagalchi, that we got that pair... it’s M’THR F’IN fate, right?!!!
The perfect ending to our full day of chasin’ beaches... We rolled outta there feelin’ giddy from one too many bottles of soju and the magic of Jagalchi Market.