There is a huge fisheries market in Seoul called Noryangjin Wholesale Fisheries Market. In this enormous indoor space, hundreds of small vendors sell fresh fish and other seafood, and there are restaurants lining the sides of the market that can cook up the food you buy, on the spot.
Noryangjin is open all year and apparently 24 hours a day. The market is fairly easy to get to. It's in the southern part of Seoul, at a subway station conveniently named Noryangjin. Once you exit the station, you cross an overpass bridge which leads you to the market.
You can peek over the railing on the second floor and see an overwhelming array of fresh seafood being sold.
There are all sorts of shellfish and mollusks...
...huge crabs and lobsters...
Salmon, tuna, and all other sorts of fish, freshly caught from the ocean.
There are aisles upon aisles of fish. Be sure not to wear nice shoes to this market, as the ground is wet and slippery, and vendors butcher fish right on the spot.
As you walk down the aisles, you can start scouting out your next meal. Vendors sell fresh whole fish, prepared fish, as well as sashimi. There was so much delicious looking sashimi.
The prices were very reasonable. A platter of sashimi like the ones pictured below were between $10-15 USD.
The best part of the experience is that you can buy some fresh fish from the market and bring it to one of the restaurants at the side of the market. Usually the restaurants will charge a cooking fee and a "table" fee. The cooking fee depends on what you want cooked, and what type of cooking style you want (steamed, BBQ'd, soup). The table fee is between $3-5 USD per person.
Unfortunately, we bought a huge platter of salmon head and fillet that no restaurant seemed to want to deal with. The portion was just too big! We thought we had gotten a great deal ($10 USD for four to five pounds of fresh salmon), but we were waved away by most of the restaurants.
We wandered desperately among the restaurants, until we came across a hole-in-the-wall place on the first floor. This restaurant was decidedly less fancy than the others, but the nice owner agreed to cook our enormous portion of salmon for only $10 USD, and there was no table fee either.
While our fresh salmon was being grilled in the kitchen, we enjoyed some nice pickled side dishes - some sort of greens and a mushroom dish.
In a short amount of time, our massive plate of salmon arrived. The cook apologetically told us that the fish head was still cooking, but we were just so happy to see our food on the table.
The fish was terrific - fresh, flakey, and lightly charred from the grill. It really did not need any extra seasoning.
Then the best part of the meal, the fish head, arrived. The massive head was split in half. The meat near the head is actually the best part, tender and juicy. I definitely got my fill of omega-3s at this meal.
Though we tried valiantly, we could not finish the huge portion. There was an old Korean couple next to us who took interest in us as tourists. They showed us an interesting dish that they were eating. The table had a hotpot, and we saw them take a live octopus that they had bought from the market, and put it directly into the boiling broth.
It was a little terrifying to see the wriggling legs of the octopus as it sank into the hot soup. The Korean lady was very insistent that we try this traditional dish, so she promptly cut up some of the octopus leg for us to try. It was quite chewy, but otherwise not bad! Since they were so gracious to share part of their meal with us, we offered them some of our salmon fillets.
This was one of the best and most memorable meals I had in Seoul. Next time I will know not to buy such a big and unwieldy portion of salmon if I want to have an easier time getting my food cooked.