Busan, Korea: I ate a live octopus at Jagalchi Market!

One of Busan’s main attractions are its coastline and naturally, its abundance of seafood.
The main seafood market of Busan – Jagalchi was an eye-opener even for someone like me who has frequently visited wet markets in every state in Malaysia and in most countries that I have laid foot on.

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For starters the Jagalchi market is manned only by women (pun intended) . According to my research, these women are known as “ajumma” – a reference to older women who still work to eke out a living and are all almost similar in age. While it is still the men that brings in the catch, the women are the driving force behind both sales and operations.

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Jagalchi Market is the location for the ultimate epitome of women power. Watch as these hardened ajummas scale a fish, behead an octopus, pry open a clam, shuck an oyster (or dozens) haggle with a customer, weight and pack the seafood; at most times simultaneously.

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The Jagalchi Market is like one huge aquarium (and a huge food playground for me), with so many species of fish that I’d never seen before. And this is precisely the reason why I made it a point to visit wet markets in every country that I’m in. I learnt about my food before it was served on a white porcelain plate!

For Jagalchi it was all about the seafood. I tried to identify some species among countless others, but other than octopuses, eels and blowfish, most are alien to me.
Some are in tanks, some in aquariums, some dried and some fermented. I was just mesmerized!

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crabs - jalgachi market

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And there’s seaweed of every kind and size and form imaginable!

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Most of the fishes and mollusks are huge. The cockles are almost the size of my palm!

clams - jalgachi market

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We started in the outdoor zone where business goes on regardless of rain and shine. Huge canopies covered make-shift tables that makes up the business premises for the ajummas.

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Then we moved on to a small covered building, where more similar seafood are sold. Perhaps the rental in this building differs from the one outdoors.

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You get to ermm.. watch live documentary of the Jagalchi Market here!

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A lone stall fries delectable fishcakes on sticks (one of my favourite Korean street snacks) while another chopped parts of a pig for sale.

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The tail, the skin, the knuckles and ears. Which catches your fancy?

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Grab a sample before buying.

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Was it good aunty?” I was tempted to ask. 😀

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But we were hurried along. We had a lot more lined up for the day. Even a choice, I would spend my whole day here!

Next was very modern shaped building right beside the port.

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Within the building more stands displays even more seafood but here each floor is dedicated to different areas of specialization.

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We stayed on the 1st floor where I finally had the chance to chomp on a live octopus! I had been looking forward to do so ever since a friend of mine left a comment on my FB that it was a delicacy here in Korea.
Within this building, visitors select their seafood of choice  pay and have it served dining-style on the upper floors. Everything, and they meant everything on display is edible RAW, and will be cut & served immediately upon payment.
EVERYTHING except the crabs, not because it wasn’t fresh enough, but because of the shells.

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Yes even these weird looking seashells, slugs and that worm fish. Ewwww..I thought these would be harder to swallow compared to a live octopus!

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So how was my live octopus eating experience?
I got a video of it which will be uploaded once it’s ready. Here are some screenshots from the video! 🙂
Step 1: Approach a vendor that sells (among others) octopuses.
Step 2: Select the poor octopus that you want to eat alive.

Rebecca saw eating live octopus in Korea1

Step 3: Pass it over to the vendor and pay the amount due.
I was under the impression that I would have to chew on an octopus alive like this plucky madame here but it turned out quite of an anti-climax when I realized that the vendor would actually chop off the head of the octopus followed by the tentacles before serving it to you on a plate with some kick-ass chilli sauce.

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Here’s me trying to do the same. 😀

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But no no, it is actually dangerous to do so. How dangerous I don’t know, I mean would the octopus tentacles constrict my throat once I swallow it?

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So this was what I got for 5,000 won (RM15). A plate of wriggling chopped up tentacles.

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This was a mild eating experience compared to the fat slimey sago worm I had in Sibu, Sarawak!

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And so I chewed and chewed as each tentacles squirmed and muscles contracted in my mouth. But it was nothing really. Nothing scary. But it does taste good! 🙂

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I would encourage EVERYONE to try this! Make sure you record a video or take some pictures to show your friends and family of your “fear factor” experience.

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Here’s my video: Watch watch watch please! 🙂

This place is a seafood heaven and I only wished that I had more time to have a proper sit down meal here together with a group of friends. Imagine, just 5 minutes before any seafood you ordered arrived at your table, it was still swimming or “breathing” in its tank.

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When in Tsukiji it was all about salmon and tuna. Here in Korea, there were barely any of the 2 popular fishes. Our guide told us that in Korea, the locals hardly ever consumed salmon or tuna and in fact had to import these 2 fishes from Japan. It is actually quite costly even for them though Japan is so near.
Within Korea, the locals consume the local catch (which is in abundance) .

And yes, like every wet market that I have been to, Jagalchi gave the impression of a never-ending supply of sea life in our seas, but we all know that’s not true. I’m not certain if they practiced sustainable fishing methods here in Korea and even though I enjoy seeing many species and the abundance of fresh seafood, my heart sank as I wonder silently if one day, all of these will merely be memories and we will only see such scenes in pictures and videos captured now.

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Just before we leave, we went to the dock/pier and looked out to the port.

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It is a nice area for a stroll and to enjoy the sea breeze. I would imagine the area to be more popular when it’s summer or spring when the weather is warmer.

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Here’s a parting panorama shot:

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Jagalchi Fish Market is a fish market in the neighborhood of Nampo-dong in Jung-gu, and Chungmu-dong, Seo-gu, Busan, South Korea. The market is located on the edge of Nampo Port (남포항), Busan.
Opening Hours:
The market is open from 05:00 am – 22:00 pm everyday. Some shop hours may vary. The market is closed on the last Tuesday of every month.
How to get to Jagalchi Fish Market:
Take line 1 to Jagalchi station and leave exit 10. Head straight and take the second right. Continue to head straight until you come to the fish market. The fish market is located along the pier.

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So is anyone here a wet market lover like I am? And anyone just as game to try eating a live octopus? 😀

** This is a media trip with the Air Asia X team and Busan Tourism Board. We were in Busan for the Air Asia X inaugural KL- Busan flight launch and had the good fortune to explore Seoul and Busan for 5D4N.
If you have any question for me about Busan, do drop me a comment here! 🙂

Busan Korea - Air asia X media trip group pic

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Sean

    phew, it’s a good thing they killed the octopus first! but nice … super-fresh octopus, much fresher than any we’ve eaten anywhere else before! 😀

  2. KJ Lim

    Epic la you Becky! I couldn’t help watching the sago worm eating feat again and I shuddered just seeing you chew!
    Will be waiting for the video of this octopus eating experience! 🙂

  3. David

    Actually your hair looks like its tamed down. The colour is not so bright anymore and it actually looks good on you!
    But yes, back to the octopus. You wanted to eat the whole octopus? Really??

  4. ulric

    I will definitely sit-down for a slobberknocker seafood meal…hehe :3

    1. rebeccasaw

      I’m definitely heading back. Maybe take the cruise frm Tokyo over to Busan since I’m going to be in Tokyo for 2 weeks later this year. 🙂
      Or see if the flights are cheap for the July month, cos that’s when the inaugural flights starts!

  5. Gladys

    Babe I sent you an email about Busan! You got it?
    I’m so excited for my trip. Hope to get tips from you

  6. Choi Yen

    wow, the raw octopus eating experience!

    1. rebeccasaw

      Heheheh! It’s like eating the chinese lor bak octopus – it tasted like that!

  7. Gong Li Wannabe

    Darn you do eat all sort of things becky! So how come no dog meat? I heard it’s quite a staple food in Korea?

  8. Chew Mei Ling

    I love markets too! I have always followed my mum to the wet markets since small. But I have never thought of visiting wet markets when I’m traveling! You’re right, we all should visit the local markets whenever we can!

  9. Renee

    Reading this all the way from US and I have to thank my sister for letting me know about your blog!

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