21 March 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Eating bokkoms

As any responsible tourist can tell you, eating local food is part of the deal. Part of the fun too.

But I nearly drew the line at bokkoms. You’ll encounter this dried fish all along the West Coast of South Africa, especially around a little town called Velddrif.

In fact, they call this the unofficial bokkoms capital. Wander down a little dirt road here and you’ll find these silvery mullets, soaked in brine, drying in the sun.

The first one I had, as a bar-snack in Doringbaai, was dark, crunchy and on the brink of rancid. It nearly put me off for life. Only when the barman came to collect the bones did I realise that I had perhaps judged the excessive crunchiness unfairly.

You’re supposed to ease the flesh off the bones with your teeth. I can attest to its effectiveness as a bar snack though. I would have drunk anything after that, and probably did.

When I got to Velddrif though, I tasted bokkoms as it is meant to be tasted. It yielded slightly to the touch - so not as hard as my first experience. It was also more palatable.

The locals say it tastes best with a chilled white wine, or fresh bread, apricot jam and strong coffee.

I’d have it again, but the experience of walking down that little road still remains my bokkoms highlight. A pelican waded in the shallows, hoping for snacks. Terns wheeled overhead like a galaxy of stars.

Workers in waterproof boots strung up fresh bokkoms outside, and offered me another local delicacy - snoek head. And that’s where I really did draw the line.

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