Watch any You Tube video regarding Korea and you're bound to see one (probably more) where the subjects are eating raw, moving octopus parts. Eeew, right?!? But we came halfway across the world, over the Pacific Ocean  and sat 13 hours on a plane. We're already on an adventure, my friends, so why the heck not try it?

From our home base in Hongdae, we took the Subway Line 1 train to Noryangjin station. It's a few minutes ride out onto the burbs and a great way to see another part of Seoul that is certainly less touristy. Alighting at the station, exits are clearly marked in English and Korean, so it's easy enough to follow the directions.

As you follow the street directions towards the market, you'll be led into this tunnel that is filled with makeshift vegetable stalls.

If you've never been to a wet fish market, let me enlighten you: the first thing that will arrest your senses is not the sight of the fish but the stench of the sea. It is off-putting at first but you get used to it. It is, after all, a natural smell.

This is not the Noryangjin Market that is prominent in most YouTube videos. Evidently, there is a new market (this one) and an old one, which I later found out was tucked beside this enormous building. Apparently, the tenants at the old building did not want to move here yet, so now you have two markets that are each half-full. Needless to say, the new market is clean and bright and I'm assuming, that had I known how to read Korean, those digital signs would be helpful, as well.

Prawns of every sort

Live clams

If you're a seafood lover, this is paradise. Most of the sea creatures here are still alive and breathing when you buy them, so you can't get any fresher than that. Also, apparently, if lives in the sea, it can be eaten. Just as in the case of the crudely named Penis Fish.

These are actually some sort of sea worm, if you squish it, it squirts! :) We did not taste these creatures.

Some sort of ocean tube worm
Our order of business here is to sample the great Korean delicacy of San-nakji-- the raw octopus. But first, another raw fish-- salmon.

I exercised my considerable lack of haggling skills to full competence by getting our small salmon fillet from KRW 15, 000 down to 12,000. That doesn't sound too impressive until you remember that we spoke no Korean and they spoke no English. We mainly communicated through calculator-speak-- which is the same way we clarified to the nice ahjumma (auntie) that we only wanted to try a grand total of one baby octopus and not the five that she wanted us to buy.

The Lucky Octopus
All is well. The ahjummas called a runner to bring us to the restaurant upstairs that will prepare the food for us. You can also cook it yourself at home, if you please.

We were quite frugal, with our meal only amounting to KRW 17,000. I mean, we only had the prawns grilled and the rest were prepared raw, so that's reasonable. Most people pay upwards of KRW 50,000 because they add the drinks in. As you can see, we're quite content with the service water.

The food finally arrived. We got our raw octopus cut up into squirmy bits. The suction cups in the tentacles are still active at this point, so it is imperative that you chew and chew and chew before you swallow. They try to climb up and down the chopsticks, too, or walk out of the plate altogether! Hilarious.

The meal came with sesame oil, chilli, garlic, lettuce and wasabi.

Our grilled prawns.
The verdict? It is actually not bad! Just close your eyes and forget about what you're chewing and you'll appreciate the gummy texture, fading into softness and sliding down without protest.  I gotta admit though, the sesame oil makes it all palatable.

The salmon hoe or sashimi was juicy and creamy, and the prawns were sweet and succulent.

Our neighbors next table were already at it with the soju at 11:00 AM! :) Ahhh, to enjoy food and drink like Korean millenials...

Definitely check out this cool market when you come to Seoul. You don't have to try the San-nakji but there's fish aplenty. Just bring your appetite and don't let your nose lead the way.

If you haven't seen it yet, come watch our Noryangjin Market video!

Karrisa and Ketie
Our favorite Korean Street Food: Gyeranppang
Myeongdong is a feast for the senses. There are a lot of things to see, hear, touch, smell and eat! If you're averse to eating street food, you're missing out. Korean street food is hearty and filling and delicious and satisfying. The night we ventured into Myeongdong, we didn't eat at a restaurant at all. We meandered in and out of stores and in between shopping, we stopped to sample something here, something there until we got to the end of the street, exhausted but satisfied.

So which foods to try for sure?

1. Our favorite is the gyeranppang. This is a soft, sweet and savory cake topped with egg and cheese-- simple ingredients that just warmed our chilly hands and empty bellies. It usually sells for KRW 1500 to 2000 each (so about $1.50) and it's delicious. If I didn't want to try more food, I'd have eaten more of these.

2. Bungeoppang. These are fish-shaped waffle with either red beans or chocolate inside. They come in small sizes (where you get maybe six at a time) or half-palm sizes. Excellent desert.

3. Japchae. If you're in the mood for something savory, these glass noodles are a must! They're made of sweet potato noodles stir-fried in sesame oil and mixed with veggies. Meat, usually beef is also an option.

4. Korean Pancakes or Jeon. These aren't really like American pancakes. Instead, these are more like omelettes except there is flour in it, hence the pancake name. You can choose pajeon-- a veggie pancake with scallion as the main ingredient, or Kimchi jeon-- self-explanatory-- or half and half!

Fishcake, Jeon, Japchae and Tteokbokki stall

Grilled lobster

Grilled Mussels and Oyster on the Shell

Fried Shrimp and Octopus

5. Grilled Seafood. Koreans love their seafood and they are all available on the streets of Myeongdong. Most popular of them all are the fish cakes. It didn't look appetizing to me but the lines are always long for these stalls so I'm going to assume they are indeed good. Mussels, Oysters, Shrimps and of course, Octopus are also available.

6. Sweets. There are ice cream everywhere in February! Hurray! Sweets of varying colors add to the visual appeal of Myeongdong streets.

7. Fruits and Vegetables. Of course, if you're in the mood for something more natural and organic and the like, there are fruit and vegetable stalls as well. Some grill 'em, some juice 'em. All of them taste good.

I didn't even get the chance to photograph the ever-popular Tteokbokki-- which is a rice cake that's swimming in red, spicy sauce. It's not my favorite Korean delicacy, but look out for that, too. A nibble here and a nibble there and you'll surely be full. But if not, restaurants and cafe litter the top floors of the buildings in Myeongdong-- so don't forget to look up.

Karrisa and Ketie

It seems like it's always Black Friday in Myeongdong. The crowds certainly suggested so. We came on a chilly Tuesday night in the middle of February and it still seemed as if Christmas was just around the corner.

We ventured into Style Nanda wondering what the fuss was about. This store leveled up when it came to Korean quirk. It was a "hotel" and each level had a different theme.

The ground floor was packed with women trying on different types of makeup. It was the sort of crowd that makes one wonder at first glance if there were a celebrity inside. No star in there, just makeup.

Next level up was a "bedroom" where clothes were hung up in the closets. Then there's the "bathroom". Look, you can try on lipsticks by the sinks! When we were there, apparently there was a promo going on where they give you a set of keys and you pick one that you think will open one of the "hotel doors". If you open one, you get a prize! It was too crowded when we went though, there was no way we would have had time to do that.

My favorite level is the "laundry room", because who thinks of putting a washer and dryer in the store? :) Further upstairs, there's an actual cafe where you can drink more bland Korean coffee.

Where are the shoppers? This level was way up in the upper level. Most shoppers stayed in the ground floor makeup area or the second and third floors.

So what about the clothes? Well, Korean street fashionistas (if you can find them among the sea of black parkas) wore either an oversized sweater over a super short skirt finished with high heels. In winter.

Or they resort to these big, boxy jackets that at first seemed off to me, but after seeing them so many times, heck I wanted to buy one of my own!

(As an aside, I do realize I need to up my creepy street fashion game, so I get actual style shots instead of these back shots lol. Tips? )

 Back out onto the streets, street vendors have set up shop next to the food stalls...
What did I say about oversized sweaters? And these cartoon characters. Oh yes, these are for grownups. 

Even those stores that have actual retail space in a building bring out their wares in a bid to entice customers who may just be around for the atmosphere. Down here, there are racks and racks of short skirts and oversized sweaters, or the black parkas. Pick your uniform.

Yeah, Korean fashion. It's not for the faint of heart.

Karrisa and Ketie

 We finally made it to Myeongdong! Being beauty enthusiasts, this area of Seoul has intrigued and excited us because there are literally beauty stores in every corner-- most of the time the same brand of beauty store the next alley over!

 Koreans are seemingly obsessed with great skin care and it shows! I was mesmerized by the fine complexion of our flight attendants on our Asiana flight ;) and by random strangers on the street.

 The prices are pretty reasonable, definitely cheaper than if you were buying them imported abroad. For example, there are Buy One, Get One deals all over the place and the best deal of all, are all the freebies you get just by walking through their door! A lot of stores also give free samples of serums, lotions or masks after you buy something.
 What we noticed the next day though, shopping for more beauty stuff in the morning, was that there were less freebies then. Maybe, they're more generous at night? Maybe the night shoppers are a little more free with their money, ahem! inebriation!, or maybe we just went to the wrong stores next day.

My favorite stores were Etude House (whose brow tattoos are excellent), SeaNTree (where I found a pink eyeshadow palette comparable to Urban Decay Rose) and Holika Holika (they had the best deals on masks! 40 for KRW 20!). Ketie's favorite was Tony Moly.

Some of the stuff we got in Myeongdong. I swear it seemed like there were so much more! 

We had an excellent time shopping in Myeongdong... if only we had an unlimited budget! It was a vibrant neighborhood full of frenzied shoppers. Something you'd see in the US come Black Friday.

Of course, if you're not into Korean beauty, or beauty items in general, never fear! Myeongdong has lots more to offer, namely-- Clothes Shopping and Street Food! More on that next!

Karrisa and Ketie
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