15 July 2011 by Robyn Campbell

Gourmet bokkoms

One of my favourite local travel writers, the uber-talented Ms. Julienne du Toit, wrote a blog sometime back about her first, less than pleasant experience of eating bokkoms.

Bokkoms are a salted whole-fish snack, peculiar to the West Coast, made from harders (similar to a small mullet), which are gutted, salted, and air-dried.

These days, with mullet in short supply, maasbanker is used instead. I’ve heard bokkoms called vis biltong (fish biltong) and I suppose that’s reasonably accurate, if unappetising, description.

When one speaks of foods with provenance; bokkoms are to the West Coast what hakarl is to Iceland. One bite, and ‘Beam me up, Scotty’, you’re there, reliving your best, or if you detest fish, your worst West Coast memory.

That Julie ate another bokkom, after her first bone-filled, near-rancid encounter, is testimony to the woman’s culinary courage. I like think of myself as an EOE (equal opportunity eater); a try-anything-once kinda girl, but even I would have baulked at round two of what Jules ate in Doringbaai.

My first encounter with bokkoms, I’m relieved to say, was a revelation. A delicious one at that.

Oep ve Koep is a small bistro inside a family-run farm stall/deli called Die Winkel op Paternoster. It’s on the first corner on the left as you drive into town.

Maybe it’s his background in web design, or perhaps it’s his use of local veldkos (field food) and flowers gathered from the West Coast countryside, but chef-owner Kobus van der Merwe makes the prettiest plates of food I’ve seen in a long time.

Feasts for the eye are one thing, but a chef who can take a small, dried, potentially very smelly fish, and turn it into a gorgeous and sophisticated dish, is to be taken seriously.

Julie crunched on a bokkom, au natural. I, on the other hand, ate mine as delicate slivers, mixed with slices of apple, pan-fried between two crescents of ‘toast’, topped with a poached egg and sea samphire, and a beurre blanc sauce.

In a culinary performance of the X Factor, let’s just say Kobus brought the house to its feet. And his Sandveld bean dumplings, with dune spinach, mushrooms and almonds were equally worthy of another wolf-whistling, foot-stomping encore.

It’s become cliché to call chefs artists. Kobus deserves the tribute, along with the undisputed title, the king of West Coast kontreikos.

Oep ve Koep Bistro
Die Winkel op Paternoster
St. Augustine Road, Paternoster.
Tel: +27 (0)22 752 2105

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