Sunday, April 19, 2009

Noryangjin Seafood Market

The Noryangjin seafood market, a sprawling fresh air ocean. Paper lanterns hang above a concourse that is a few hundred meters long, giving dim light to an indoor stadium. As you pass along the concrete walkways your gaze passes over every creature that can be pulled from the sea, some you can identify and others you can’t. They are all collected together in one place at the whim of nature’s most inventive eaters: Humans.

You can hunt through the tanks and tables that are overflowing with sea life like an above ground shark - choosing fish, and shrimp, and crabs. Your senses get sharper, registering the colors, textures and sizes you prefer. Eventually the hunter becomes one with its appetite, realizing that everything in sight is potential prey.

I stepped off blue subway line 1 at Noryangjin station and crossed over the bridge following the signs that said 식장. The smell was inviting, like the smell you get while waiting for a ferry to take you across a sea. I disappeared into the stairway, descending to the main level two floors below. The first walk through was intimidating, I clearly remember the crabs, there were thousands of them. Eventually I settled on a red snapper. It was frozen, and seemed a little safer than the anarchy surrounding it. I grabbed a crab too, and headed off to find one of the restaurants that are located in the market itself.

What follows are passages that I wrote while at the Noryangjin Marine Products Market. They're unedited, so they're kind of rough:

They sat me by the door after they took the red fish and the crab. The door is a crappy place to sit and I'm a little scrunched up, waiting for the restaurant to do something to my food. I’m not sure exactly what is going to go down because Korean fails me when I need it the most. Suffice it to say that the woman took my seafood and is going to come back with something edible. I was hoping that it would be sashimi, but after 20 minutes I've given up on that one.

It wasn’t how I pictured it would be, but it was still seafood heaven. I adore seafood, and if I get into a conversation about it, I need to eat it within 48 hours. It’s dangerous…so I read an article about the market yesterday, and now here I am today.

I think that it is as close as man can get to recreating the ocean.

As usual with seafood, I’m overdoing it. The sashimi laid out before me, slowly putting the third story on the seafood structure that I was building in my stomach. 20 minutes ago, it was alive. I dip in the soy sauce, and put it in my mouth. There is that fresh taste when you exhale like all raw fish I’ve had. How can I stop?

I know that I wouldn’t make it a day as a shark, but evolution has been kind to us, and I’ll get more chances at this Noryangjin fish market.