One of the my favourite memories of travelling through Nova Scotia is seeing fishermen at work. On one occasion, I saw several fishermen sorting out a huge pile of freshly caught mackerel. The glint of the silver fins flying in the air was so brilliant in the sun, their haphazard falls in the ice boxes so animated, and the ocean behind them so blue. The liveliness of this scene, which has been etched in my memory, was revived in my head years later when I travelled through the Jagalchi Market (자갈치시장), Korea’s largest seafoodmarket located in Busan.
It is difficult to describe the abundance of fish and seafood available in the Market in mere words. Not surprisingly, more than 30% of the country’s fish production passes through the market. Many of the vendors have been there for decades, making them both experts and historians of the industry.
Booths after booths in narrow alleys, street stalls, large market buildings are heaped with both fresh and dried fish. Here, you can pick your fish and get it cleaned, filleted, and chopped right before your eyes and eat fresh raw fish right at the market, in an outdoor area by the ocean. Or you can sit upstairs in the market to eat, and the vendor would bring the side dishes and rice along with the freshly prepared fish or seafood that you picked out. That is what I did after selecting a random fish. I still don’t know the name of this fish but it was delicious.
This is also where my husband and I had our ultimate Korean food adventure that consisted of a live octopus! I was feeling more hesitant than daring that day but I had to tell myself that such opportunity may not come up again. Then it was my husband (who is Canuck to the core) who fearlessly took the first bite and I just had to follow suit. Once I got over the strangeness of eating something that was still alive (it took a few minutes), to my surprise, I actually found the texture nicer than the cooked version (I enjoy cooked octopus a lot). The spicy gochu pepper sauce that came with it was good too.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), fish remains man’s most important single source of high-quality protein, providing approximately 16% of the animal protein consumed by the world’s population. It was easy to see here just how significant fish and seafood is in the Korean diet. As for the result of my food adventure, to say that I started craving live octopus after that would be quite the exaggeration but I’ve certainly developed a deeper appreciation for the texture of fresh seafood.