No ‘Hwae’ Am I Eating That

I was quite excited about the prospect of trying ‘hwae’ (회) before coming to Busan. Hwae is a traditional Korean dish that consists of thin slices of raw fish; you could say it is Korea‘s version of sushi (and I am a big fan of sushi!),  but then there’s nothing quite like watching a woman chop up an eel while it’s still slithering to make you lose your appetite…

Woman at Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan

No fish aisle in the supermarket could have prepared me for the Jagalchi Fish Market. I was expecting a few different varieties of fish, perhaps the odd crab or lobster, but I got something else!

Busan’s main fish market is home to some of the strangest sea creatures I have ever laid eyes on. So strange that I didn’t even know what to call half these creatures! Although my googling skills did reveal that the creatures that look like pink sausages at the bottom of this photo are called ‘gaebul’; affectionately referred to as ‘sea penises’ by many a foreigner…

Woman Napping at Jagalchi Fish Market

And then there were the people napping all over the market. Notice the woman with her feet up in the air, hiding discreetly under the newspaper? Yes, I see you! And here’s a photo of a man taking a little break from all the fish hacking. There were many others who hung in that dream-like state that descends over your body right before you fall asleep.

Man Napping at Jagalchi Fish Market

Lastly, no trip to the fish market would have been complete without getting my feet doused in fish guts! Yes, it happened. The fish vendor apologized to me right BEFORE he sprayed the fish parts on my unsuspecting feet. Thank you kind sir! I leapt away like a little gazelle as fast as my tip-toes would take me. I’m kind of glad I wore flip-flops, though perhaps rubber boots would have been a more sensible choice…

So what did I eat that day after coming all the way down to the port with the intention of tasting ‘hwae’? A good ol’ hamburger, that’s what! Bacon, avocado, ‘real’ cheese (because that’s rare in this country)… If you ever find yourself in Busan, go to Sharky’s in Gwangalli and order yourself one! It has been voted THE best burger in Busan, and I would call it the best burger in the country! Beats raw fish any day.

For a better look at what you can do with a bit more time in the city, be sure to check out Isabel’s guide to Busan.

Have you ever visited a fish market?

Did you come out of it unscathed?

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Andrea

    I basically had the same reaction to the fish market in Seoul…in theory it sounded really awesome and I wanted to go, and once I was there I was just trying to keep my breakfast down! I don’t like to see my food alive before I eat it, it freaks me out. Wading through fish blood didn’t exactly pump up my appetite either. That burger sounds good though 🙂

  2. says: Zhu

    Can’t blame you, I would have had the burger afterwards too! 😆

    Fish markets can be so messy… great candid photography though.

  3. says: Emily in Chile

    The fish market here in Santiago has its fair share of strange creatures – I’d never seen barnacles in the fish section of my supermarket back home – but no sea penises, thank god. Those would be enough to put me off seafood for a while too.

  4. says: Antoinette B. | love.antoinette

    Ooh man, that burger sounded like the best you’ve had in days! I was in Hong Kong 3 years ago in a restaurant with these Australians I met, and we saw snakes being picked out of giant aquariums, skinned, chopped, placed on a plate with soysauce and other condiments and served to a table nearby. Talk about appetite-killer!

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      I can picture them still slithering on that plate! Gahhhh! Any creature that is still moving will not be going in my mouth. I’m guessing you went with a tastier and fully cooked option? 😉

  5. says: Mark Wiens

    Sleeping under a newspaper with her feet propped up next to piles of seafood – great way to take a nap. I think people across Asia have a serious talent for sleeping in any position or place and surrounded by any form of chaos. Too bad the sushi didn’t work out, but glad you got a big satisfying hamburger!

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha, they can nap in strange places! I like that the lady under the newspaper clearly doesn’t care who is watching her or what she looks like. Perfect photo op for me! 😀

  6. says: Waegook Tom

    The fish market! I went with my co-workers a few weeks ago, and they ordered the live baby octopus…I refused to eat it. I ended up munching on some raspberries that we’d bought earlier instead.

    Thanks for the tip about Sharky’s, though. Beached in Gwangalli Beach is another great place, too – their fish and chips are pretty good, and the tartare sauce = HEAVEN.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha, raspberries would be a safe choice! Busan may warrant a second visit, so I’ll keep my eye out for Beached next time. Gwangalli was one of my favourite places in the city – especially all lit up at night!

  7. says: Edna

    I usually enjoy my seafood, fresh or cooked, but have been put off for a while by that news article about the Korean lady who ate a fresh squid and, well, I’ll let you google it for yourself and see what happened. Staying away from raw seafood for a while.

    Also, I love the title of this post 🙂

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      HAHAHA!!! Someone was reading that article at work the other day and we were all horrified! How can that even happen?! I don’t think I’ll be going near raw squid – ever! 😀

  8. says: Suzy

    I visited a few fish markets in Sicily, but I managed to avoid the fish guts on my feet aspect. Rubber boots would have been better! I wonder what makes the vendors so tired. I guess they are used to sleeping around fish that they probably don’t notice the smell.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Haha, I guess selling fish isn’t a very exciting profession… 🙂 It definitely took a while to get used to the smell. You could sniff your way to the market from blocks away!

  9. says: Noah Lederman

    Hamburger??? Next time order the decapitated eel while it’s still slithering. I want to read that post.

  10. says: Helen

    Mmmm, fish. I would be right there with ya eating the hamburger! Sea penis on a bun doesn’t quite do it for me!

    Love the photo of the lady asleep. I love that about Asia, people just having a nap anywhere anytime. I wonder what would happen if I did that at home? I might try it tomorrow…

    Have fun Audrey and Samuel!


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