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One of the most exciting things about traveling to a new country is the opportunity to try new and exciting foods.  And Korea is no exception. If you are a seafood lover, then a Korean fish market is an absolute must-try. Unfortunately, it can be a much more difficult experience than going to a normal restaurant, especially if you don’t speak much Korean. Luckily for you, we are here to help.

——————— Getting There ———————

The Cheonan Agricultural and Fish Market (천안시농수산물도매시장수산동) is on the outskirts of Cheonan to the north in seobukgu (서북구), but it’s not too difficult to get to.

How to get there?

The 120 bus leaves from the Express Bus Terminal and takes just over 20 minutes to get to the market. It drops you off right in front of the market, all you have to do is cross the street. You also have the option of taking the 110 bus from Cheonan Station.  Its about a 30 minute ride and drops you off at the same place as the 120 bus does.

Alternatively, a taxi from the bus terminal takes only about 10 minutes and will cost you around 6,000won.

The fish market is just one in a complex of big buildings. After crossing the street, the first building you will see is the agricultural warehouse where they sell fruits and vegetables. The fish market is located directly to the right of the agricultural warehouse and has the words 수산동 written in big blue letters on the side of the building.

——————— The Market ———————

First floor- Seafood Vendors

Upon entering the fish market, the first thing you will notice is the smell.  It’s not a bad smell necessarily, especially if you’re a seafood lover, but it is strong.  The first floor is filled with tanks of live fish, shellfish and more. There are also some places that sell dried fish and other various dried and salted seafood including shrimp and seaweed.

Second floor- Restaurant

The second floor is where you go to eat. It looks like a typical Korean restaurant.  This one even has tables for grilling meat if you are not a fan of seafood.

——————— Picking Your Catch ———————

The main reason Koreans go to a fish market is to purchase hwe (회), or as we know it, sashimi.   You do this on the first floor. It can feel quite intimidating because a) it’s not seafood that a lot of foreigners are used to seeing, and b) the vendors can seem like they are trying to take advantage of you.  However it is important to know that they are good, honest people just trying to make a living and they are not constantly trying to rip you off. Most of the vendors are actually quite helpful and accommodating.

The vendors are not aggressive, they are just assertive.  It is their job to sell you fish.  You are definitely allowed to bargain with them. Some vendors even start their prices a bit high expecting you to do so.
It is rude to play with seafood without buying it.  That being said, don’t allow them to push you into buying something that you don’t want. If you feel like you’re being forced to buy something,  just smile politely and move on.

After purchasing your fish, the vendor will proceed to fillet it up right there in front of you.  They will then package it up along with any other seafood you may want, and send you upstairs to eat.

——————— Time to Eat! ———————

When you get up to the restaurant, find a table and give the bags to a server.  They will prepare your food nicely on a plate before serving it back to you along with a cornucopia of different side dishes including kimchi, clams, and shrimp.  Your meal also comes with a variety of different dipping sauces for the fish such as wasabi and soy sauce and a spicy red sauce.

The vendors will usually give you two different bags.  One containing the parts of the fish that you are going to eat raw, and the other containing the head, tail and other less appealing parts that will be used to make spicy fish soup (매운탕) if you want it.

If you want the soup, it will cost an additional 8,000 and they will serve it to you after you’ve finished your hwe. You can also purchase beer, soju, and soft drinks.

The fish market is a truly Korean experience, one that this writer feels everyone should try seafood lover or not.  Hope to see you there!