Some people do not enjoy raw fish but I, for one, love sashimi. Back in Canada, I enjoyed raw salmon and tuna but here in Korea the ones that I could get an easy access to are common white fish called wooreok and gwangeo. Because I live in Daejeon where the nearest sea is about two-hour drive away I guess I was never able to experience exotic, unusual sashimi. So it was indeed a delightful shock when I found myself in Busan and was faced with a fish called milchi (밀치) – something that I have never heard of in my entire life.
At the famous Jagalchi Fish Market (자갈치시장) in Busan, my friend and I grabbed a seat inside the old building referred to as Sashimi Center. There is a newer and bigger building nearby that was built for the tourists but I always prefer something more traditional and local. My friend is visiting from Vancouver but she is originally from Daegu, not too far from Busan. We both wanted to try some sashimi in a way that locals do so we asked for the “chef’s recommendation”.
The lady told us that milchi is currently in season – thus making it fresh and reasonably priced. Both of us had no clue what milchi was but we decided to go with the recommendation. The live fish looked sort of like a carp – chubby and quite large. As we expected, the quantity was more than enough for two people. The plate was filled with roughly sliced flesh and it was so much that in the end there were few pieces of leftover.
Milchi became my new favorite sashimi mainly because of its texture. Unlike salmon sashimi that is smooth and slimy, milchi is slightly bit firm and chewy. You can really taste the freshness as you chew. The meat is not too fatty and has a bit of a natural sweetness to it. The color of the raw flesh is so pretty as well with the wine-pink lining.
We also had live long-arm octopus and abalone sashimi. I have had san-nakji (산낙지: live long-arm octopus) before but I never have never seen the one served with vegetables. Here at Jagalchi Market they chop up the octopus and serve with onions, carrots, green onions then finish up with toasted sesame seeds.
We had two bottles of Joeunday soju (a regional soju of Gyeongsang-do) and the lady kept provided us with free food (yay!). The pan-fried bollack (볼락: a kind of a rockfish) was so good as its flesh was juicy and tender. The seaweed soup was unique because it had fish bones in it. Unlike the ones made with beef that I am used to.
Having fresh sashimi at Jagalchi Market was such a fun experience that I have been looking forward to for a long time. You get to browse through the tanks of live seafood and pick the ones that you want for a great meal on the spot. This surely is the place where you can enjoy freshest fish at a lowest price (plus the fun atmosphere!)