South Korea 8 – Markets – 12/2015
Markets. Yes, we’re market junkies, and we’ve seen some pretty interesting markets in the last couple of years, but really, the people in China and Mongolia and now in Korea, well, they eat things we really don’t have names for. Of course they have the regular stuff like chicken, beef & pork and vegetables. And then the rather unusual things like dog meat. (We couldn’t tell whether it was an Irish Setter or a Golden Lab.) Actually, the primary breed raised in dog farms for meat consumption is the Nureongi and differs from those breeds raised for domestic pets. There is a large and vocal group of Korean people that are against the practice of eating dog meat but BBC claims that 8,500 tons of dog meat are consumed per year, with another 93,600 tons used to produce a medicinal tonic called Gaesoju.
So after the chicken, the dog meat and the pork you get to the fish market. Amazing in a word. We’re pretty familiar with fish but there were a lot that we had never seen before. Dried fish, salted fish, fresh fish, cooked fish, snails, clams, mussels, and that’s not to mention squid. It was squid season and trawlers went out at night with long strings of high-powered lights that attract the squid. Big squid! Thousands, no, maybe hundreds of thousands of squid. What you do with a hundred thousand fresh squid? Calamari? Spread them out on the cement pads. Keep them doused with fresh seawater so they don’t die on you, and package them up quickly to get to the market. We were not really sure where they went but obviously, some people in Korea and other countries really must like fresh squid.
It was afternoon by the time we finished being amazed at all the fish and clams and other critters. Food stands were selling all sorts of deep-fried fish. That’s when we spotted the huge tanks full of King Crab or Snow Crab, basically the same thing. Grab one for lunch we thought? We took a closer look and picked out a nice fat specimen from the live fish tanks. We’ve seen Alaskan King Crab legs in the local supermarket in California at an astounding $18 a pound, so we figured here in Korea, with the tanks packed with thousands of them, they might be a little cheaper. Not! The crab we picked out and had weighed would set us back about $132. Of course for that price they cook it, prepared it for you and give you the tools to open up the legs. It’s served with a variety of small dishes including the famous kimchi. We sort of choked at the price and went looking for something more reasonable. The next time I see Alaskan King Crab legs in the supermarket for less than $18 a pound I’ll buy a few and think it’s cheap.
The clock was ticking down so we headed to Busan and the port from where the truck would be loaded onto a “Ro-Ro” and shipped back to California. We still had packing and preparations to do; taking off all the lights and anything else that might be stolen in transit, perhaps an unnecessary precaution. Our truck would not fit in a container. A “Ro-Ro” (Roll-on, Roll-off) is simply a giant oceangoing ferry/freighter. No passengers allowed. With a couple of weeks to spend before The Turtle V would be arriving in Long Beach, we headed for Japan. Kyoto and the Snow Monkeys! More on that soon.