So on the fly, they decided to bring Chef Kim in as the guide for the Noryangjin act. Andrew had flown in, and the Noryangjin shoot was scheduled the next morning.
I’d had a busy week with work. I was planning to go down to Noryangjin that morning, but I was too exhausted. For some reason, I woke up three hours earlier than usual and couldn’t go back to sleep.
“Ah, screw it. I’ll go.”
I got dressed and got to the subway to head to Noryangjin, which was a bit of a ride.
When I got there at seven, the summer air was thick, and the humidity felt like rain was coming eventually. The air on the outside of the fish market was rank, but once inside, it smelled kinda clean. The entrance from the subway is on the second floor. I wondered how I would find everyone in this, one of the largest fish markets in the world.
A-ha! I’d know those orange shorts anywhere. I made my way down there, where I was recognized by crewmembers who weren’t absorbed in shooting the show. They had been shooting for a few hours by then, including the fish auction.
I hung out in the back so as not to disturb anything.
Despite being early in the morning and just off a flight over the Pacific, Andrew was full of energy.
Even though I had introduced everyone to Chef Kim, I hadn’t met him in person myself. So that’s what he looked like. Andrew was a kid in a candy store. As well traveled as he is, there were still many things that he had never seen before.
The crew was just as interesting to watch.
Jane took pics for the Bizarre Foods web site and promotion.
The octopus lady bags their catch. Chef Kim tells her to put it in a clear bag in a styrofoam cooler. Andrew compliments that he’s a chef who knows how to get his seafood.
After that bit, Andrew and Chef Kim went aside to discuss things. Kel introduced me to Andrew as the guy who set up everything.
“Oh, you’re the guy that I hate,” he joked.
They went back to another aisle around some shellfish to continue the act.
The market was very noisy, and I really zoomed in on my little Pentax point-and-shoot. Man, I miss that camera!
I couldn’t hear what they were saying amidst all the noise in the market. They were trying this one thing that I thought was sea urchin but may have been a sea squirt. The web site says it was “mungae” (door dog?), but I think they meant monggae 몽개, which is sea squirt.
Nonetheless, he ate it.
“Eating shellfish in chili sauce is the perfect way to start the morning.”
Andrew also found this tiny wooden box that was used for something he knew of. I haven’t seen the show yet, so I don’t know if that was included in the cut.
They moved on to more shellfish. Chef Kim brought his friend, who was a photo designer in New York City for eight years and could help him with his English. I got to know him pretty well. Chef Kim and Andrew looked at more shellfish, with both of them picking out their favorite.
Always whip out your handy knife when shopping.
He likes it! Hey Mikey!
“You should try this.”
Then they got to the ki jogae 키조개, which translates strangely as “pen shell.” It’s a giant triangular black shellfish with meat similar to a scallop. Andrew had to try this one out. I don’t think his pocketknife was up to the task, so the lady opened it for him.
“It’s a gorgeous monster.”
That’s a massive lob of meat in there.
Munch, munch, munch!
The last bit, I think, was the jeot 젖 section of the market, which specialized in all those lovely stinky fermented fish products that are the base of much of Korean cooking–a common feature in many world cuisines, especially in southeast Asia. The ancient Romans and even pre-Victorian British were fans of fermented fish products. That’s actually the origin of ketchup and Worcestorshire sauce.
Oh, ADD set in again. Where were we?
Oh yeah, look at all this stuff! And they have toothpicks out to sample. It smells raunchy, but the flavors are complex, deep and disturbingly addictive. Andrew went around getting the crew to try samples on his toothpicks. He particularly loved the spicy salted pollack roe.
That’s really good stuff if you know what to do with it (I don’t).
Oh, here are our friends the penis fish. Uncircumcised.
These are such a mystery to not only foreigners. Korean friends are puzzled by these things. They’re called “gaebul” 개불, and they’re really a species of marine spoon worm. Urechis unicinctus. One day, I’ll eat one of them. I’m afraid I’ll cringe in inappropriate places if I see them being prepared.
They picked a live red snapper for lunch, and the fishmonger swiftly transformed it into sashimi. Andrew whipped out his camera to shoot some golden photos.
**LIVE FISH EVISCERATION COMING**
The fish was very active and flopped around during most of the carnage, even when the head was hacked off. Check out that knife. That’s something a Klingon could love.
Gutting. Still flopping around.
And we’re all wrapped up. This… was… fast!
Everything was tagged and bagged, so they did the “walking off to the restaurant” shot. Raymond made sure to write down and pay for every little thing eaten there.
It was then that I lost everyone. I don’t remember how. I think, oh yeah, I found a tinker–you know, a knife craftsman. Gorgeous knives there. When I came back out, I couldn’t find anyone. After some looking, I eventually found Richard and Kel. Kel, after all the hype, wanted to see one of those fermented skates for himself. We looked around, and I asked a lady. She obliged.
He leaned over to sniff it and jumped back reflexively.
“Yep, that’s it.”
He took a few snapshots for the show.
The restaurant wasn’t ready yet, so we waited outside. I got to finally shake hands and get to know Chef Kim. I also helped out with translating some of the fish they encountered. That’s the weird thing about my Korean. Since my obsession is food, I’m more likely to know the name of a fish species, even though I still have no idea how to tell a hairstylist how to cut my hair. There actually was a small kink. The restaurant had set up a small private room.
Too small. Too private.
Andrew wanted customers in the background and activity all around them. Yet it was a bit early for customers.
As they set up for them sitting in the main dining room, a few of us retreated to the air-conditioned bus, specifically Jane, Kel, Andrew and me. Andrew was really excited about his new fisheye lens on his camera and showed it off to Kel. We hung out and talked about stuff. I wish I remembered what it was. Must not have been important.
They opened the restaurant, and we entered. As mentioned before, Andrew wanted customers and activity with the open kitchen in the background, but it was a bit early for the lunch rush. The crew worked on setting up the logistics. They recruited the floor manager to be in the act to welcome them. Kel said that if no customers came, he’d want my back sitting at a table in the background.
There was a lot of waiting. I remember someone asking me to translate some stuff on the menu. Then the time finally came to do the shot. Everything had to be done perfectly so that the octopus was still wriggling for the cameras. Richard went into the kitchen to get shots. By the time it started, I was stuck in the original private room with Jane, where I had stretched out on the floor. The lack of sleep was catching up.
Since they had started shooting, Jane and I were trapped in the back room. So while they were shooting this.
We were just beyond that door to the left.
We watched what was going on through the reflection on the beverage cooler.
During a quick break, we escaped. Andrew used the opportunity to get in his own bit of food porn. They had all the side dishes out.
Oh yeah, this is the cool thing about Noryangjin. The surrounding restaurants don’t really do much seafood cooking. They make the sashimi in the market, and you bring it over, where they have side dishes and drinks all ready. The only cooking they may do is turning the leftover bones and head into soup. If you don’t have any sashimi on you, they’ll just yell out an order to the market. That’s fresh!
The octopus was ready. FAST!
They got the octopus. I’m afraid it was kinda pooped and didn’t put up much of a fight, but it still moved. Andrew picked up his first tentacle.
And the reaction. Now with modern cooking shows, they usually cut to get the food porn money shots. This is “Bizarre Foods.” They gotta cut to get the “Andrew playing with his food” shot.
When that bit was done and there was still some wriggle in the octopus, they got some teaser clips, where Andrew improvised lines about what he was eating “next on Bizarre Foods.”
“Coming up: Food so good, it literally jumps in your mouth.”
By then the octopus was down for the count.
Kel and Jane still got their turns to try some. The consensus? Chewy. That’s always what people say, and that’s it. It doesn’t have any flavor and is like chewing rubber bands. But it’s fun in its own sick way.
Oh, Raymond’s looking. Say hi!
The soup came out, and there was more fun.
Andrew took out the fish eye and shared it with Chef Kim. By then, the clock was ticking for me, and I had to head back to Anyang to start my workday.