Oct 26, 2010


Dried meat again, well fish this time.  And we didn't cure it ourselves.  This time a bit closer to home.   As part of our West Coast expedition in December, we also bought a bossie bokkoms.

Laaiplek is probably the largest bokkom producer on earth.  Haarder (mullet) is netted in the river and strung up in bunches to dry.  We sadly didn't wander up the river bank to the drying ranges, but we still managed to find them.  At Die Vis Vlekhuis we bought homemade snoek pâté, and enquired about bokkoms.  "Yes, there", pointed the tannie to already filleted bits.  "Klaar geskil."  Peeled.  For those with shiny SUVs from the binneland looking for a novelty item, I suspect*.  I wanted the authentic experience.   "Any whole ones perhaps?", I asked.  "Of course, but we don't keep it in the shop. Because of the smell, you see."

Aah. The smell.  When curing meat, it can develop a characteristic scent.  Think salami, or dry-cured ham.   This is usually quite appealing, but unfortunately many people find bokkoms a bit intimidating.  It is oily, salty, quite fishy.  Imagine anchovies, but firmer.  More fish, not as much salt.  A lot of sea in a tiny package.   I'm sure many cheeses are stronger, but then people object about them too.  But I'm sure it's less extreme than when I was ten, when my previous bokkom encounters occurred.  For R12, a bunch is mine. 

At home we hung it outside.  The smell, you see.  Reactions vary.  I was excited of course.  Almost as excited as my grandmother - she hadn't had any in years.  My father was pretty happy too.  The mother was slightly reserved, but she is used to this.   The sisters were initially less diplomatic: scepticism cultivated by a life devoid of dried fish.   Their enthusiasm grew as they ate more and more and more.  A had an academic interest in the taste, but she wasn't really bubbling about the possibilities.  But she tried.

To clean it, cut along along the back, sliding a knife down the spine.  Then along the stomach.  Off with its head, then peel back the leathery skin.  The meat is intense, still salty but not as overwhelming as the scent promised.  An alternative is to rest it over the fire for a few minutes.   The heat loosens the skin, perhaps softening the flavour slightly.  Good on bread, or just as is.

You should try it.  

* Or those who eat it so regularly they can't be bothered to clean it them.  They are excused, of course.


Marie said...

Never had a bokkom. Now I might have to.

Anairam said...

Last ate bokkems in Lamberts Bay. Better than biltong, I say.

Jacob said...

good stuff, here some advice from an old bokkom eater. Remove head. Cut along top from front to back to remove the dorsal fin and just deep enough to split the left from the right hand side skin. cut the ventral side from the anus to the front, deep enough to remove the bony rig cage and all the intestines. Split the skin from the anus to the tail. Peel the skin from front to back. Pry the meat loose with your teeth. If you feel any bones just chew well and they will be pulverized. Fantastic with dry white wine.