A Rainy Day At The Fish Market – Jagalchi Market – Busan, South Korea

When Kevin and Josh get together, it’s like an episode of Bizarre Foods. They always manage to find the good, the bad, and the ugly of strange local cuisine – and then they try them all.

Before coming to South Korea, we had heard about sannakji. Sannakji, or small raw octopus, is typically served freshly chopped with a little sesame oil, tentacle pieces still squirming on the plate. If you’re adventurous, you can just wrap the still-living octopus around chopsticks and eat it in one big bite. Because the tentacles and suction cups are still “alive”, sannakji is actually quite dangerous. The tentacles can get stuck in your throat, causing you to choke.

Yesterday we took an hour and a half train ride down to Busan, a city on the southeast coast of the country. It was a rainy day, so our only plan was to go to the Jagalchi Market to search for sannakji, and whatever else looked good. The market did not disappoint! You basically walk around the downstairs level, browsing at what the vendors have for sale. When you find something you like, you buy it from them, then you head immediately upstairs to eat it. The food is as fresh as it can get.

We took a long, slow walk around, checking out all of the sea creatures. There were fish, octopus, crabs, and lobster – of all sizes, ranging from baby to gigantic. There was also a plethora of shelled creatures – clams, oysters, scallops, and other things that we’ve never seen. Then there was the absurd…sea penises, eels, cuttlefish, stingrays, and other things that we couldn’t even attempt to identify.

As we walked down the aisles, we were splashed by fish tails flapping in the water, and squirted at by a clams closing their shells. We saw creatures suctioned to the outside of their tanks, slithering down the side trying to escape. There was a rogue crab that climbed out of his tank and had found a knife. There were eels being nailed to tables to have their skin ripped off, and there was even an octopus that had its head ripped off right in front of us – thankfully not all of us saw. It was a very raw experience.

We started out with a feast of crab and lobster. Kevin picked out a giant 5.5lb lobster for him and Christine to share (Christine didn’t want to be directly responsible for choosing which lobster died). Unfortunately a key component – melted butter – was absent, but it was still very tasty.

The second course was a little more adventurous. Kevin and Josh picked out a small octopus, a sea penis (insert joke here), and an eel. All were served raw, octopus tentacles still moving. It took several beers, some fighting with chopsticks (the octopus arms wouldn’t let go of the plate!), and a lot of chewing, but they finished it all.

The picture was taken as they were trying their first bite. The man and his wife sitting diagonal from us were watching and laughing. They stopped by on their way out to talk with us for a few minutes.

As far as fish markets go, Jagalchi was top-notch. The variety of sea creatures on hand was beyond anything we’ve seen in our travels across Asia. Eat something that’s literally still moving – check that one off the bucket list!