The New Guide to Noryangjin Fish Market 2021

One of the best places to visit in Seoul is Noryangjin Fish Market. It’s like an aquarium where you can eat the exhibits. Unlike a lot of fish markets around the world, many of the fish are still alive in tanks. Because of that, it doesn’t smell as rank as other markets.

This is a new guide because Noryangjin has gone through a transition from the Old Building to the new one. 

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If you want a fun guide and eating companion, book one of our Mix & Match Private Tours. We can take you to Noryangjin Fish Market and other great finds only local foodies know.

When To Go

This isn’t like many fish markets around the world. Many of the fish are living in aquariums. They’re not decaying on a counter. The freshness of the fish is the same all times of the day.

The only things I’ve observed over the years is that it will get busy Friday and Saturday in the late afternoon and early evening. Groups of salary workers and seafood partiers are venturing out to get their catch for an evening of Neptunian bacchanalia.

Getting There

Noryangjin Station is one of Seoul’s most confusing. The reason is that there are two unconnected stations on two different lines. There are TWO EXIT 1s!


The original station connects to Line 1, the dark blue line. The new station connects to Line 9, the gold line, the only privatized subway line in Seoul.

Line 1 Method

If you’re coming from Line 1, you’ll be above ground. The least confusing way is to go out Exit 2. Go up the stairs from the platform. You’ll see a lot of street food vendors in the station. Head right and go out the turnstiles. There should be a convenience store and a coffee shop with an escalator and stairs. Go down the stairs and continue going straight, following the road. 

You’ll pass exits 8 and 7. Keep going. There will be a tunnel on your right. Go through there, and you’ll make it to the market.

Line 9 Method

Resurface at exit 7. Go straight, following the road, and turn right into a tunnel. There will be vendors sitting on the ground. That’s a sign you’re getting close. You’ll get through the tunnel and find yourself at the entrance to the main market.

They’re not aggressive. They’re assertive. They’re competitive. The shellfish and live “swimming fish” vendors are most so. It’s rude to play with the seafood without buying. Always smile and be polite. Don’t let them push you around, though. Just move on.

Don’t worry about getting cheated. There are Noryangjin apps in Korean that keep up to date with seafood prices. I’ve found that the Noryangjin vendors generally sell their wares a hair higher than the places that cater exclusively to restaurants. They don’t fleece tourists. They’re good folk.

On the right, outside, you may see what’s left of the old building. The transition from the old building to the new has taken a few years. 

Bizarre Foods was filmed in the old building in August 2008. Read my blog post about the filming here.

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
Andrew Zimmern loving the penis fish

The New Building

New Noryangjing. From Korea Tourism Organization.

The old building was open air and rougher. It had a lot of charm. The new building seems more like a shopping mall. The positive change is that the restaurants are cleaner.

New Building 1F

Take a look at the map.

The main landmark to orient yourself on the first floor is the escalator. There aren’t many vendors in the green area.

Noryangjin Escalator

The vendors are similar to what you saw in the Old Building. Maybe more lobster. Just wander here. I wouldn’t buy any seafood yet. There’s so much exploring to do.


Green – Fresh but dead seafood

Lavender – Frozen

Blue – Live fish

Orange – Shellfish

This isn’t like the fish market in Tokyo. I’ve seen auctions in various markets. They aren’t as exciting. Kinda subdued. Beside, we have all this live seafood in the area. It’s just as fresh at 6 p.m. as it is at 4 a.m.

After a good wander, go up the escalator.

New Building 2F

The second floor is where I do business. I buy my foods and eat them here. I like the restaurants. They’re so much cleaner than they were in the Old Building. I don’t have to be on the watch for cockroaches. Many of the restaurants are connected to specific vendors. They’re mostly named after famous seafood areas in Korea. The move to the New Building has made it possible for new types of restaurants and pubs to spring up.


This is what I usually like to do and see.

Knife Shop (Section D)

At the top of the escalator is a knife vendor. This is good for souvenirs. Just make sure that you put the knives in your checked luggage. These are good quality sashimi knives that will shave the hair off your arm.

Salted Seafood Marketplace

This is my favorite part of the whole market. All these fermented salted seafood. These are used to make kimchi, muchim (salads), to put on steamed pork wraps, and to just eat on the side. There are toothpicks available to try samples. The fun is just trying things. Don’t even try to guess what they are. I’ve had guests on my tours like some things so much, they bought a small pack to bring back to the hotel. One of my guilty pleasures is the spicy smothered raw oysters with some buttery Ritz or Zec crackers. It helps to have a bottle of water with you.

Live Octopus Corridor (Section H)

If you want to try the squirming octopus, you can ask for it here. In the past, the vendors have set us up with an impromptu table with chopsticks and dipping sauce.

Ask for SAN NAKJI 산낙지. <– useful Korean word

Fried Shrimp Stand

They sell not only fried shrimp. Other fried goodies and bottled craft beers occupy the menu. THIS is the new Noryangjin.

Other Notable Restaurants

Jian and I checking out the Japanese restaurant
Jian and I scouting the Japanese restaurant

In section F, there are a fried seafood drinking spot and a Japanese sushi restaurant. They are both great. If you don’t want to deal with the vendors, you’ll have just as good of a time in any of those places.

Second Floor Vendors (Sections C & G)

This is where I usually get my seafood. The dotted circle is the specific vendor I go to out of habit. I’ve dealt with them before, and they know what I like. There’s a woman selling octopus and shellfish and a man selling live fish. Many vendors have restaurants. The guys I buy from are connected to Haeundae 해운대, which is named after Busan’s most famous beach. A live fish will run you W30,000 to W50,000. Just point and gesture how many of fish and shellfish you want.

Korean “sashimi” is called “hwe.” The vendors will say, “Sashimi,” because that’s the word they know tourists know. Unlike Japanese sashimi and sushi, it’s not aged. It’s fresh. It much firmer than sashimi and has a clean ocean taste. The most common hwe are flounder/sole, rockfish, salmon, and tuna.
Korean sashimi hwe
A typical Hwe platter

Oh, you want some Korean words? Here you are.

Common Swimming Fish

I’m including the official romanization and a rough pronunciation guide in parentheses.

Flounder – Gwang-eo (Gwahng-uh) 광어
Rockfish – U-reok (Oo-rock) 우럭
Salmon – Yeon-eo (Yuhnuh) 연어 <–not sold live
Tuna – Chamchi 참치 <–not sold live

Common Shellfish and Other Critters

Shrimp – Sae-u (SEH-oo) 새우
Oysters – Gul (Gool) 굴
Clams – Jogae 조개
Scallops – Garibi (GAHreebee) 가리비
Abalone – Jeonbok (John-boak) 전복
Sea Worms (the penis fish) – Gaebul (GEH-bool) 개불
Sea Cucumbers – Haesam 해삼

Korean Seafood Restaurant

After you choose and pay for your catch, someone will guide you to the connected restaurant. They’re pretty much all the same, so don’t resist. They’ll likely want to get you going before your fish is dispatched and sliced up. If you want to watch the gruesome sight of how animal becomes food in five minutes, stick around.

When you enter the restaurant, the server at the front likely will ask you how you want everything set up. They’ll know right away which one is sashimi. For the other things, if you don’t know, just nod and agree. I’ve had great surprises that way.

Many times the shellfish will be steamed (jjim 찜) or grilled (gwee 구이).

Salt Grilled Shrimp
Salt Grilled Shrimp

I particularly ask for the shrimp to be salt grilled (sae-u sogeum gwee 새우소금구이). The result is a shell so brittle that you can eat the shrimp shell and all.

Butter Grilled Scallops
Butter Grilled Scallops

The scallops are good steamed. Sometimes you can get them grilled in butter, called “Butter Gwi 버터구이.”

The squirming live octopus, again, is called San Nakji 산낙지. I don’t recommend trying to eat one whole. In fact, the server likely will refuse to serve it that way because it’s too dangerous. In a way, it’s crueler than quickly chopping it up with a knife. Even though the chopped octopus is squirming, it’s no longer alive. I’ve timed it twice. It takes fifteen full minutes to eat an octopus whole. Get it chopped.

After they take your catch, they’ll guide you to a table. Order your drinks. Soju is the traditional choice, but I also like to have some beer (maekju).

You’ll have some sauces set out for you.

  • Soy sauce and wasabi — The classic
  • Vinegared chili sauce (Cho-gochujang) – This is the typical Korean style dipping sauce. I like mixing it with wasabi, making it taste a lot like cocktail sauce.
  • Pohang sauce – It’s a mix of fermented bean paste (Doenjang), chopped garlic, chopped green chilies, and sesame sauce. It originates from the southeastern port of Pohang. Mix it up. It’s great!
And that’s it!

Sit back and enjoy. You deserve it.

Oh, one more thing…

Mid-way through your meal, ask for Maeuntang (MAY-oon-tahng) 매운탕. It’s a spicy boiling soup made with the bones of your fish, along with healthy greens. I like taking some of the leftover sashimi and dipping them in the soup like shabu-shabu. This is the traditional way to end a proper Korean hwe meal.


I always have DVD bonus extras.

Cup Rice Street

One of my favorite secret corners of Seoul is Cup Rice Street (Cup Bap Geori 컵밥거리), right on the other side of Noryangjin Station. It’s a row of streetside vendors catering to students studying for professional exams. Cheap. Lots of variety. Unique. And Good.

Vietnamese Pho
Ogane Pancake
Ogane Pancake (something new)
Shrimp Steak?
Did it say “Shrimp Steak?”

Be on the lookout for the infamous Bomb Rice (Poktan Bap 폭탄밥). It’s a super spicy variation of Bibiimbap.

Bomb Rice
Bomb Rice

Here’s how to get there.

Cup Rice Street Map
Click to enlarge

Exit the New Building and head towards a tunnel. Exit and walk east to the subway station. Cross the main road and follow the street. Pass a McDonald’s and a gas station before you get there.


I want to thank Dino for pushing me to create this guide.

Please leave more tips in the comments

14 Must-eat Korean Foods In Seoul and Where To Eat

Two Two Chicken

I’ve been writing about Korean food in Seoul since 2004 at ZenKimchi. I’ve consulted Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Travel Channel, and other world media in finding the must eat Korean foods.

Here’s the ultimate list. These are foods you can find specific restaurants for. I’m not including foods that you’d find as side dishes, like Japchae and Kimchi.

Beginner’s Quest

This list is getting so hyuuuge that I’m dividing it into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Beginner is if you’re new to Korean food, or if it’s your first time in Korea. These are also the foods that are crowd pleasers–the greatest hits. The Top-40 music of Korean food.

Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ

The first must-eat Korean food that springs to mind. Cooking meat at your table and wrapping it in lettuce. There’s something primal about that. Korean BBQ is all about community and fun. In Korea itself, pork is king. Beef costs so much it’s for special occasions.

Where to eat Korean BBQ

It’s hard to screw up Korean BBQ in Korea. The competition is so fierce that mediocre places don’t hang out long.

Mapo Jeong Daepo 마포정대포

Standing in front of Mapo Jeong Daepo

My go-to place is still Jeong Daepo in the Mapo neighborhood, near Gongdeok Station. The whole area is full of BBQ aromas. Most all the restaurants in that area are great. We made sure Anthony Bourdain went there the last time he was in Seoul. It’s the main place we go to on The Ultimate Korean BBQ Night Out.

Hongik Sutbul Galbi Sogeum Gwi 홍익숯불갈비소금구

I don’t know how long this will hold out against the pressure of gentrification. It’s a packed, packed, packed place. They give your meat a pre-cook over strong fire before finishing it at your table.

Chicken & Beer

“Chimaek” (Chicken + Maekju | beer) got its start in the early 1970s. It’s now such a great must-eat Korean food institution that we have more chicken restaurants than there are McDonald’s in the entire world. There’s something about this combination. Strangely, it works well with watered down Korean beers–preferably Cass. I swear.

I’m more a fan of classic styles. Recent styles of fried chicken lean more to the American style–thick flour-based crust. I like the thin starch-based coating with the aromatic spicies.

Where to eat Chicken & Beer

I’d almost say it’s hard to go wrong, but it is. Chicken hofs are neighborhood haunts. There’s no exclusive I-gotta-try-this chicken pub with a line out the door. In fact, if there’s a line out the door stay far away from it. My rule of thumb is this. If it’s full of beautiful young women taking Insta-selfies, it’s not good chicken. If it’s grease stained and full of middle-aged men who look like life has kicked them in the teeth, great chicken.

Two-Two Chicken 둘둘치킨

You can’t go wrong with Two-Two (pictured above). You’ll likely be the youngest person in any of its locations. It’s a franchise, but each venue acts like a mom-and-pop shop. The basic recipe and yangnyeom (spicy sweet garlic sauce) are the same, but they put their own spins on the sauces. We include a stop at a Two-Two on our Authentic Korean Chicken & Beer Experience. They’re outside Gongdeok Station, and the couple who runs it is great and welcoming. I want them to get more love.

Chicken Baengi 치킨뱅이

They also do it classic style. Get their chicken 3-ways: fried, sauced, and garlic. Then go for the pa dalk, boneless chicken thighs on top of dressed ribbons of green onions. My favorite location is run by two ladies on the north of the main strip of Hongdae. Go out Hongik University Station, exit 7 (Holiday Inn) and head due south a couple of blocks. It’ll be on your right.

Nureungji Tongdalk 누릉지통닭

A new brand, they don’t do fried. Chicken is spit roasted over wood and served on sizzling platters of crispy rice. We also go to this on the new Authentic Korean Chicken & Beer Experience. The ones near Gongdeok and Sookmyung Women’s University kill.


Since these are franchises, your best bet is to copy and paste the Korean names above into Google Maps, Naver Map, or Kakao Map.

Kimchi Jjigae

Kimchi Jjigae

Okay, you fans of “Always Be My Maybe.” This stew sits on the pantheon of comfort foods, next to macaroni and cheese. It is so perfect on a chilly Seoul night. You want it chock full of tofu and pork. The canned tuna version is also quite good, though I like it better when it’s served at a drinking establishment in a beat-up tin pot.

Where to eat Kimchi Jjigae

Most Korean diners, like Kimbap Cheonguk, will have it on the menu. There are few places that make it the star of their menus, except…

Omori Jjigae 오모리찌개전문점

Go down to Jamsil, across the lake from Lotte World, for this. It’s a chain, but this is the flagship store. Go to the second floor. The first floor is for black bean noodles. Here, you can get 3-year-old Kimchi Jjigae. You’d be surprised at how subtle and smooth it tastes.

Gwanghwamun Jip 광화문집

Tiny, tiny, tiny place near Gyeongbokgung Palace. They have two items, kimchi jjigae and gyeran mari (rolled omelet). Get both.


Gogung Bibimbap

The king of rice bowls. There are many kinds of bibimbap. There’s the dolsot sizzling kind. There’s the fancy Jeonju bibimbap. There’s your basic Korean diner bibimbap served in a plastic bowl with a fried egg.

Contrary to what you may have had outside Korea, it doesn’t always come sizzling, and it doesn’t always come with an egg. There are infinite combinations.

Where to eat Bibimbap

Like Kimchi Jjigae, it’s available in most diners. There is a chain called Bon Bibimbap, the same as Bon Juk. It’s just fine and dandy. But if you want to go for something more serious…

Namsan Mokmyeok Sanbang 남산 목멱산방

Usually bibimbap has each ingredient artfully placed on top of the rice. At Namsan Mokmyeok Sanbang, it’s artfully placed on a separate plate, where you can put it together yourself. There are many varieties of rice bowls there, so go at it.

Jeonju Yuhalmeoni Bibimbap 전주유할머니비빔밥

Respect, respect, respect. Grandmother knows how to make good bibimbap. This place has been around for over 50 years. Simple menu. Get the bibimbap and the Kongnamul Gukbap (Bean Sprout Soup).

Gogung 고궁

I love Gogung (pictured above). The original location is in Jeonju. It’s a case of franchising out and collapsing. It’s hard to find a Gogung in Seoul anymore. Thankfully, there is one in touristy Myeong-dong. This is classic refined royal Jeonju bibimbap served in brass bowls.


Mul Naengmyeon

Chilled. Buckwheat. Noodles. It’s in my top ten of favorite Korean foods. All the chilled buckwheat noodle dishes are. Naengmyeon itself comes from North Korea. The classic Pyongyang style is light with a clean sophisticated broth. Can you believe that before the 20th century, northern Korea was known for more fancy artistocratic cuisine than the south?

Naengmyeon always hits the spot at the end of a barbecue meal, with a few squirts of vinegar and hot mustard from the bottles sitting next to you. That may be why places like Woo Lae Oak are famous for the naengmyeon. Fancy BBQ must follow with refined naengmyeon.

There are usually two types available, noodles in soup (mul naengmyeon), and noodles mixed with a spicy gochujang sauce (bibim naengmyeon). Of course, there are many more varieties, like there are of bibimbap. Baby steps.

Where to eat Naengmyeon

If you’re in Korea for a short while, just order a bowl at the end of your BBQ dinner. The one pictured above was just a W5,000 (~$4.25 USD) lunch special at a little BBQ joint near my regular jogging route. Otherwise, try these places.

Woo Lae Oak 우래옥

Famous, famous place. Almost too famous for being too famous. I like it, but it feels a bit stodgy. It’s where you take your grandma after church. The prices are premium, but it’s worth it for the naengmyeon.

Dongmu Bapsang (Comrade’s Table) 둥무밥상

He used to cook for officers in the North Korean army before defecting to the South. Now his cozy shop serves dishes that he misses from home. Yes, definitely eat the naengmyeon here. Also try the soondae sausages.

Jeongin Myeonok 정인면옥

Watch out for the lunch lines here. It gets crowded. The naengmyeon is great, but it may also be because it’s one of the few good restaurants in Yeouido.

Street Food

When in Asia, tourists want street food. Seoul has good street food, but don’t expect what you’d find in Southeast Asia. Street food in Korea primarily acts as a snack and late night starch filler for an alcohol-laden stomach. Most carts serve the same exact thing. There are variations, but those are in areas that cater to tourists and college students.


Don’t call it “topoki!” That was some hare-brained scheme concocted by a government agency ten years ago. They’re chewy rice cakes in a spicy sauce. I personally think the stuff on the street is sweeter because it’s more suited for kids. Tteokbokki in bricks-and-mortars, like Jaws Food and Mimine (pictured above), tend to be better. Spicier and more savory.


A word about Mimine (MEE-mee-nay). They’re the big yellow building on the main drag in Hongdae. Go to the second floor and order two items: Gukmul Tteokbokki (Soupy Tteokbokki) and Se-u Twigim (Fried Shrimp). They have patents in three countries for their shrimp frying technique. It’s served with three flavored sea salts. What I like to do is dip the shrimp in the spicy soup and then in the salt, chased with a beer.


Fish cakes on sticks soaking in MSG-saturated broth. Just go and grab a stick, brush on a few happy dabs of sauce with the brush Bob Ross style, eat, and pay. The proprietor counts the number of sticks you have left over.

Hot Ba

Or Hot Bar? It’s fish dough shaped into logs on sticks and deep fried like a corn dog. In fact, they come with hot dogs and other ingredients in them. That’s one of my favorite street foods.


Fried stuff. Usually sweet potatoes, shrimp, sesame leaves. It’s like tempura but heavier.


The proper romanization is sundae, but I don’t want you to confuse this with ice cream. They’re blood and glass noodle sausages. The traditional version uses rice instead of noodles, but the street version uses the glass ones, giving them a bouncy texture. It’s served with pig liver and offal. What I like to do is make Kim-Tteok-Soon. Mix the Twigim and Soondae together with Tteokbokki sauce. It’s what Harold and Kumar would crave if they lived in Korea.


Fried dough stuffed with brown sugar, nuts, and other goodies. They are delicious and make great hand warmers. They emerge in high numbers during winter.


Sweet cakes stuffed with sweet red bean or custard. Another great hand warmer and quite good.


Literally, “egg bread.” Sweet pancake batter cooked in a cup like a muffin with an egg cracked inside. Sweet and savory. Protein and carbs. It’s the breakfast you never knew you needed.

Where to eat Seoul Street Food

You can get it most anywhere. Here are some areas that have a unique touch.


It’s one of the few times I’ll say Myeong-dong has better food. The street food scene there is competitive. But Myeong-dong is like Times Square in New York. There are more tourists than locals. It’s here that you’ll find the Frankenstein creations, like lobster with cheese. The Tornado Potato was born here, as well as many street food staples and flashes in the pans.


It’s another touristy area. Here you’ll find the famous Insa-dong Hotteok, which puts a bit of cornmeal in its dough, giving it a super crunchy texture. Other highlights are the fire-grilled chicken on a stick, my beloved egg breads, and Cocktail Guy. We tend to give Cocktail Guy a visit during the Dark Side of Seoul Ghost Walks. He makes them cheap and strong. Adult Capri-Suns.


Some weird but delicious ice cream with honeycomb we found in Crazy Street Food Alley

Carts with the basics camp outside Hongik University Station, exit 9. Further down, past the buskers, you can find what I call Crazy Street Food Alley. It’s a series of stalls that are always rotating with new street food ideas. It’s like a market research lab throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.

Noryangjin Cup Rice Road 컵밥거리

Now this is food that is meant to be eaten like a meal. These stands cater to young adults studying for professional exams. The cram schools to help them prepare for these career tests congregate here. Cup Rice Road sprouted as a bunch of carts to feed these poor hungry young professionals-to-be.

Here’s a map of all the places I’ve mentioned.


Dessert! We don’t really have desserts in the Western sense in Korea. We do have this shaved ice treat. The competition each summer with Bingsu makers gets more intense each year.

It’s a war!

The goal is to shave ice so perfect it’s fluffy fresh fallen snow. The ice itself usually comes from frozen milk, but I’ve seen other ice sources, including coffee and makgeolli (Korean rice ale).

Where to eat Patbingsu

The margins make this lucrative, so everyone is trying to get into the game. Most all bakery chains, like Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours, get all into this. Most coffee shops do this. There are some places that specialize in it.

Sulbing 설빙

Sulbing is a franchise that popped up a few years ago. I wondered how risky such a venture would be–as in, who would order bingsu in winter? But they’ve done well. They’re crowded in the summer. Sulbing specializes in Instagrammy bingsu, and that’s a good thing. They’re showstoppers. Don’t worry about how large they are. Remember they’re just shaved ice. When melted the liquid would fit into a grande Starbucks cup. If you’re traveling with kids this is the treat they’ll remember.

Since it’s a franchise, just copy and paste 설빙 into your map app of choice to find your closest location.

Mealtop 밀탑

Odd name. Odd location. It’s hidden on the 5th floor of Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong. Well, not really hidden. It takes up a lot of space. But you have to go up a bunch of escalators to get there. They have a big variety of bingsu. What I like is that the portions or smaller, so you can try different flavors in one go.

But wait… there’s more!

Sign up for our newsletter to find when we post the Intermediate and Advanced guides to the must-eat Korean foods in Seoul.

Seoul food veterans: please leave more restaurant suggestions in the comments. I’m going to tackle more hardcore foods in the next two posts.


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