Chicken Feet, Dried Fish, and WTF? A Walk Through A Korean Market
Traditional markets, such as this one in Pyeongtaek outside of Seoul, offers a different perspective on the food culture in South Korea the typical tourist will not find walking the isles of a local super market. It is easy to forget that this is the way most of the world continues to acquire their needed ingredients for dinner, from a locally sourced vendor using what we would overcharge as an “organic” product.
Have a walk through the Jung-Ang market with me and observe some of the more interesting items for sale.
Over a hundred vendors organize their carts and storefronts in the alley between some of the more popular commercial areas with name brand stores. Sadly, the need for the markets is declining as the more traditional way of life is being replaced with convenience found in the grocery stores makes shopping at these markets more of a nostalgic experience than a way of life for the younger generations of South Koreans.
Americans have recently become infatuated with farmers markets, realizing that it is better to get our food from the source rather than an institution. Too bad we consider natural markets a trendy and hip place to grab vegetables at a street fair rather than essential to regulate the chemicals introduced into our body through commercial use of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides.
Although I wouldn’t know what to do with many of the items sold if I was to purchase them, visiting the markets is still a must-do in any country along the Pacific as it gives an insight to the daily life hidden away on the kitchen table in private houses.
Don’t like the price of the dried fish in bulk? With all of these vendors you are sure to find a better deal on your anchovies and if not the price can always be negotiated.
Speaking of haggling, this isn’t going to be the same as negotiating the cost of your custom knock-off sports jersey or name brand purse, the older generations run most of the stalls and are extremely pleasant to talk with, even if it is through hand gestures.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fish to live octopus, prawns and chicken feet can all be bought from dozens of vendors. I recommend finding some Juipo, a form of fish jerky made from slated and pressed dried fish.
Dried salty fish found here make for some amazing photographs, although not the kind to frame on your wall, they are still unique enough to bring home as a memory if you do not need a rack of fish for the flight back.
Is it just me or do these rays have some character? I would personally choose the one on the far left as he still looks surprised.
Fresh seafood will be cheaper at the markets than traditional stores, just don’t expect them all to be presented cleaned and packaged for you. Here most of the fish and fowl come complete, head and all. That is until you, the customer, has had a chance to pick their favorite in which case you will be given the option of having it prepped for you.