Authors: foodies kitchen
Yeosu (pronounced Yersu) is a coastal city in South Jeolla province, South Korea and is one of the country’s most picturesque port cities. It consists of 317 islands (49 inhabited, 268 uninhabited) with a population of 300,000 and still retains a small town charm. Famous for its seafood, flowers and marinas, it is the host city for the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu Harbor.
The many districts surrounded by water mean an abundance of seafood and the locals eat a large amount of it, including fish, eel, abalone, crab, squid, and many different types of shellfish. The octopus, depending on size has over half a dozen names. As well as the fresh, there is a large variety of dried seafood available, including octopus, cod, pollack and anchovies which is used for soups, sauces or whole as a snack (jerky).
One of Yeosu’s fish markets I visited (and there are many) was Gyodong, which first began in 1965 as a temporary market where merchants and customers gathered to sell or buy local seafood. The permanent fish market was established following the completion of Dolsandaegyo Bridge in 1984 and grew into a large-scale market which is now about one kilometer long.
Gyodong Market is characterised by dynamically changing market scenes. At 1:00 a.m., the market begins its day with a morning auction. After the auction closes, the market is opened by wholesalers at 4:00 am, and after the sun is up, it starts to be crowded with local residents and travelers. After 3:00pm, merchants call it a day and the market begins to cool down. By then, the spots that had been occupied by street vendors with open air cafes selling meals utilising fresh seafood from the morning market. I visited late morning amoung the jostle, shove and barter style yelling.
The larger market shops have aquariums with filtered and sterilised seawater in order to maintain the freshness of live fish. It really is an unbelievable sight, a sensory overload, with hundreds of merchants selling anything that swims, wiggles, or dives, all destined to be dinner for someone. Many varieties, unlike the familiar seafood I recognise in Australia, was hard to name, and in a local Yeosu market, no translation is available.
Spontaneously formed by people, traditional markets offer a close look into the culture, history, and daily life of Korea. I’m looking forward to visiting more – and taking along a Korean (English translating) friend.