This week’s blog post will talk about my group trip to visit Namdaemun Market. My fellow bloggers and I spent the afternoon exploring the market together. Getting to visit the market as a group was enjoyable and felt like a different type of experience than my previous visit.
For my second visit to Namdaemun Market our mission was to try the famous hairtail fish. This fish is also known by the name belt fish, ribbon fish, cutlassfish and kalchi (갈치) fish in Korean. Hairtail resemble an eel and are shiny in appearance.
I’ve eaten hairtail before in Korea, but actually never knew the name of it in English. What I like about this fish is that it is quite firm and less oily than other fish. The flavor is mild, so I think even people who do not usually like fish may enjoy it.
In Namdaemun Market, there are two alleyways dedicated to Hairtail Fish Restaurants. While walking through the narrow alleys, you can see the food being prepared right outside the restaurant. You have to watch your step as to not bump into ladies washing dishes and cooking over an open fire. The smell of the food cooking made my mouth water. The most popular kalchi jorim stew (갈치조림) is a little spicy, so the aroma of spices and fried fish filled the air. Just walking past the restaurants gives a feeling of what the market must have felt like decades ago. There are many restaurants, but selecting one is not difficult as you will find many restaurant workers will try to convince you to come inside.
My new friend Parker, a Chinese university student, and I shared a meal of the grilled hairtail fish (갈치구이) with tofu stew (순두부찌개). We wanted to try the famous hairtail fish stew but since Parker had just had a tooth extracted, he couldn’t handle spicy food yet. So, I hope to go back to try it soon.
The meal was simple and delicious. The fish was cooked well with the outside being crispy and the inside soft and moist. I love eating fish but I’m not a fan of tiny bones. This fish had a lot of bones, so you’ll have to eat carefully. Our tofu stew was also not spicy and very typical of what you will find in any restaurant. I actually really enjoyed the side dishes. The pickled radish had a spicy and deeper flavor that what is usually offered. I couldn’t stop eating them! The spicy dried anchovies were also delicious. As a bonus, the server brought us a serving of steamed egg (뚝배기 계란찜). It was smooth and silky and really complimented the meal. The meal was really affordable at just 8,000 won per dish. Our total for lunch was 16,000 won 🙂
And I had some pineapple for dessert. So yummy.
Finding hairtail alley is quite easy. From Hoehyeon Station (회현역) on line 4, take exit 5. Turn right out of the exit and follow the main road. Turn left after the 3rd intersection and you should see colorful signs for the alleyway above the entrances. There are two main alleyways to take.