The place to purchase sustainable fish in South Africa


South Africa’s maritime connections have lengthy had a strong affect on its culinary traditions. However to harness the ocean’s omega-rich morsels is one other factor altogether.

Though the Karoo was, as soon as upon a time, beneath the ocean, the individuals of this area should not precisely tailored to the ocean. We favor limitless stretches of rock and dust over the deep blue and wish to eat from what will be grown and harvested on terra firma. 

You’d assume we’d humbly admit to our lack of sealegs. However nope, Karoo folks are cussed.

That’s why my dad and his brothers-in-law as soon as purchased a ship. It was proper earlier than our annual household vacation, and so they had been adamant. Harregat! ‘The cash spent on the boat will quickly be repaid by all of the fish we’ll catch and eat,’ claimed my dad. To him, proudly owning your individual boat meant an finish to takeaway fish and chips. All of the fish at our desk would, henceforth, be caught by a member of the family from the household boat. 

We youngsters had been disgruntled; all of the wives, unimpressed. 

And rightly so. On the very first day the hopeful seamen had been to set sail, Uncle Willem threw the boat keys to my dad on the harbour jetty. He tried catching with one hand, and he missed. Everybody watched in disbelief as the 2 small keys on the small spherical keyring spiralled downwards into the deep blue, and out of sight.

It took shut to 5 hours of diving by all family members for my brother to lastly emerge victoriously – keys in hand. By then, everybody was sitting in tenting chairs on the deck, consuming beer with their limp fishing strains dangling within the harbour waters.

The boat was offered quickly after, and I recall zero do-it-yourself fish and chip meals. Solely Karoo lamb chops on the braai. Follow what you recognize, you recognize. 

South Africa has one of the crucial plentiful marine landscapes on the earth, with a 2 500km shoreline stretching all the best way from the kreef and snoek dominated seas within the west to the tropical oceans of the east.

Alongside that shoreline, there are quite a few generational fishing communities expert at harnessing its bounty. In an ideal world, we’d be sourcing the fish in our fish and chips immediately from them, however that’s not at all times the case. 

And the richness of our sea harvests is in jeopardy consequently. 

Within the early 1900s, Renaissance man and South African meals analyst and gourmand C Louis Leipoldt famous that fish shares in our seas had been struggling. ‘There was a time when the Cape City fish market was the repository of virtually all fish in season,’ he wrote in his Cape Cookery manuscript. ‘From slightly sandy cove on the backside of Adderley Avenue, when the fishing boats got here in, one might get even a bunch of mullets for the asking, so plentiful was the catch. Right now, we’ve modified all that and fish – that may and ought to be among the many least expensive [and most readily sourced] foodstuffs – is prodigiously expensive, hardly contemporary, and by no means in enough provide to fulfill the demand.’

Extra just lately, overfishing by large international trawlers paired with native poaching has escalated Leipoldt’s concern to a disaster. And since the problem hasn’t been policed for many years, the South African shoreline has change into notably susceptible to exploiters.

Shoppers usually unknowingly assist industrial looters by unwittingly shopping for into the system. In any case, one fish appears to be like very similar to some other as soon as it’s on the plate. How’s a farmer from the Karoo to know that the fish being served for dinner is what the chef says it’s?

Fortunately, there are sustainability specialists working to avoid wasting our oceans’ ecosystems and defend native fishing communities within the course of.

One such organisation is Abalobi, connecting the catch of the day immediately with finish shoppers because of an app out there to anybody with a smartphone. ‘It began as an instructional analysis effort to assist inform how fishing quotas are decided,’ says Iain Campbell, Abalobi’s head of market. ‘A pure subsequent step was to attach fishing communities immediately with patrons with the tech we had been already implementing.’

Since 2015, the initiative has forged a much-needed highlight on precisely how ocean-caught fish reaches tables. Furthermore, it has positioned energy again within the fingers of the hardworking fishers out at sea. ‘Beforehand, with out figuring out the market’s calls for, the fisherman didn’t know the worth he was going to get as soon as ashore,’ Iain says. ‘He simply needed to settle for the costs supplied on the harbour. Small-scale fishers weren’t paid a good value no matter their bounty, so they’d exit extra usually, catch extra fish, hunt for the dearer and well-known species and waste catch that was deemed undesirable.’

By linking the fishers’ exercise immediately with shoppers by way of the app, there’s a wider basket of seafood: low-cost and scrumptious choices many didn’t even know existed. ‘Cape bream, for instance, is plentiful in our Cape waters however was disregarded by fishermen as a result of they didn’t know there was a marketplace for it,’ Iain explains. ‘Now, the fisher value acquired for humble Cape bream has grown by greater than 300% on the Abalobi Market. Excessive-end eateries are proudly including it to their menus and fishermen are paid truthful costs for a extremely attainable, domestically wild-caught species. Traceability is vital right here; each order comes with a QR code so shoppers can learn the entire story behind the fish on their plate – who caught it, when and the place.’ Win-win.

Inland, too, South Africa’s many rivers and lakes brim with freshwater delights akin to trout and tilapia. In Dullstroom within the Mpumalanga Highlands, sustainable trout and flyfishing farms provide a homegrown bounty of omega-rich fish to South Africans at a fraction of the worth of imported trout and salmon, to not point out the larger socio-economic impression and smaller carbon footprint.

Contemplating the struggle at one finish of the world and meals insecurity already a struggle inside our midst, we can not afford to depend on low-cost meals imports. 

We have to care for the individuals who feed us, and the assets they depend on. Solely when you’ve sourced your fish responsibly, are you able to eat it.

Traceability at your fingertips 

Traceability provides to the enjoyment of a meal… like scanning a barcode within the fancy Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg in Tokai, Cape City and studying that the Cape bream in your plate was wild-caught in Lambert’s Bay the day earlier than. Abalobi, which suggests “fishermen” in isiXhosa, empowers each shoppers and fishermen. Kerry Kilpin, government chef at Sixteen82 and at Tryn, Steenberg’s different restaurant, has been concerned with Abalobi from its inception and is captivated with its use as a way of serving to to safeguard the abundance in our waters whereas making certain that fishers and diners are stored within the loop. 

ALSO READ: Review: The Heary & Homely Winter Lunch Menu at Bistro Sixteen82

The Abalobi platform has just lately been opened to residence cooks as nicely. ‘We began off within the hospitality and restaurant industries however throughout Covid, had been pressured to create an offset for fishermen who nonetheless wanted an outlet,’ says Abalobi’s Iain Campbell. Cue the house patrons, and a brand new vary of comfort and deli merchandise. The vary consists of cleaned, filleted and blast-frozen fish. Nice for sticking within the air fryer at residence, even higher for fishermen and their households within the offseason. Go to

The opposite biltong

Whereas the West Coast’s dried fish delicacy, bokkoms, is acquainted to many South Africans, dry-aged fish is comparatively new to the native market. ‘Dry-ageing removes moisture from the fish nevertheless it nonetheless stays extremely juicy and tender, with a mouth-watering flavour,’ says Kurt Hill, one-half of Cape Fish, the primary firm to supply the product in South Africa.

‘You’ll be able to’t examine it to contemporary fish, and positively to not bokkoms,’ he says.

Kurt says that when moisture is eliminated, there’s a flavour intensification that occurs as a result of the fat ‘develop’ whereas the ‘unhealthy’ proteins break down. The ensuing cuts of fish are cleaner, he says, and sans fishy smells. ‘So clear, it makes glorious sashimi and nigiri.’

Dry-ageing can embrace smoking and curing, however is mostly an unformulaic course of, with the time taken to course of any piece of fish lasting wherever between a couple of days and a number of other weeks. Dry-ageing prolongs the fish’s prime interval of usefulness, and has the good benefit of making certain that each a part of the fish is used.

As soon as dry-aged, the fish can be utilized simply the best way contemporary fish is used, however the benefit is that diminished moisture ensures it cooks extra evenly; it additionally crisps very well.

Kurt and enterprise associate Kyle Nold began Cape Fish in April 2012 after they had one tuna boat and an outdated bakkie that they used for late-night and early-morning deliveries. Their focus is on sustainably caught and sourced seafood, and so they concentrate on giant pelagics akin to yellowfin tuna.

They course of their fish at their premises in Paarden Eiland and provide dry-aged fish to such eating places as Salsify on the Roundhouse, The Pot Luck Membership, Obi and Orca Café. Additionally they have an over-the-counter butcher vary that features swordfish bacon, marlin carpaccio and salmon sausages.

Their focus is on sustainable fish species, and so they have a fervent no-wastage coverage, with offcuts used of their fishcake combination, bones and pores and skin used for fish meal and fish heads used for bait. Go to

Discovering the freshest catch

Proper on the sting of Kalk Bay harbour, the place boatloads of the freshest ocean bounty are delivered, Kalky’s important attraction is its location, a assure of freshness. There’s actually no guessing the place that snoek got here from that you’re consuming together with your slap chips – drenched in salt and diluted brown vinegar, in fact.

Kalky’s shiny blue tables are sometimes filled with households making the most of the genuine environment and discount costs: crayfish and chips for under R100; freshly caught yellowtail and chips for under R150.

Take money in case the dodgy card machine packs up once more, and know {that a} lengthy wait within the queue is an indication of excellent issues to come back. 021 788 1726,

At Gypsy Shawarmas and Fish in Gqeberha’s Richmond Hill, first-time restaurant homeowners Geoffrey and Thandanani Chipeta have been serving fish and chips because the center of the 2020 lockdown. The duo took the no seating coverage of their stride and centered solely on kerb collections.

‘We had been fortunate as a result of we had been nicely arrange for takeaways proper from the beginning, and had actually good assist as quickly because the restrictions had been lifted to permit takeaways,’ says Geoffrey. 

The place has since change into the go-to for the tastiest fried fish and chips within the Bay, and the entire fried hake will make even essentially the most patriotic British pub-eater weepy. To not point out the contemporary, flash-grilled squid with a lemon butter drizzle – out there solely throughout chokka season in spring. 073 353 3653, Fb: Gypsy Shawarmas and Fish

On the Wild Coast, Kei Mouth’s stalwart Morgan Bay Lodge has fed many a famished surfer and traveller in its 76 years. Right here, hovering over the nice and cozy Indian Ocean, The Deck Restaurant and Bar (043 841 1062, is an unpretentious spot to take pleasure in good seafood and the unspoilt environment, ice-cold beer in hand. 

Higher nonetheless, when you’ve got the time, could be to forged your line into the ocean and haul out your individual dinner. Indian Ocean favourites embrace kob, garrick, white steenbras and an array of equally scrumptious, smaller fish.

In the event you’re within the space, get in contact with Nice Kei Adventures about its guided fishing excursions. It will probably hook you as much as fish from the seashore, or provide kayaks to discover the native estuaries. The guides are all native, educated and skilled and their tools is top-notch. 082 825 0624,

Paternoster’s light white-washed buildings and unpretentious coastal environment belie among the finest meals scenes within the nation. You’ll be able to actually stroll into any restaurant on this seaside city and discover fabulous meals that’s been sourced from inside a 50km radius – from the ocean and the land. Chef Kobus van der Merwe’s foraged fine-dining restaurant Wolfgat ( named the perfect restaurant on the earth in 2019 (which is kind of if you wanted to make a reserving for 2022).

However there’s additionally Gaaitjie (022 752 2242,, the place you’ll be fortunate to discover a desk, and Leeto (060 927 0403), within the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Lodge, all serving the freshest, seasonal seafood sourced from the ocean proper in entrance of you. On St Augustine Highway, The Noisy Oyster (022 752 2196, is a selected favorite, too, with its vibrant shade cloths.

First-timers normally don’t anticipate the extravagant dishes put down in entrance of them. Strive the prawn curry and share a couple of snoek samosas for starters. You can also’t go improper with a bowl of West Coast mussels with toasted garlic bread and a glass of Kaapse Vonkel. E book upfront.

Inland ain’t unhealthy

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t purchase seafood wherever you possibly can’t see or odor the ocean. There are exceptions, nonetheless, akin to Uncle Michael Jacobs’ Woelige Snoek (on Jan van Riebeeck Drive between Paarl and Wellington). Whereas the ocean isn’t in sight or thoughts on a busy important highway in Paarl, Michael and his spouse Sharon’s stall takes you proper there, from the center of the Boland.

Solely the freshest West Coast snoek make it to the desk each morning, sourced from a trusted good friend in Lambert’s Bay. Sharon will clear, intestine and vlek the snoek for you on-site – R110 every for a small catch, or R120 for a giant one.

It’s the perfect bounty you possibly can decide up in your drive residence from work, to prepare dinner over the coals throughout loadshedding and serve with a few fire-roasted candy potatoes.

‘The snoek is out there from Could yearly, till after the winter,’ says Sharon. ‘Final 12 months, the season lasted very lengthy. We had contemporary snoek even into December. Hopefully, this 12 months would be the identical.’ 072 107 8672 

Additionally untethered from the ocean, Dullstroom in Mpumalanga is nearer to the bustling cities of Gauteng than it’s to any marine port. As an alternative, it presents one thing for adventurers and foodies within the type of trout. There’s nothing like launching your line into one of many city’s many lakes and feeling it jolt again… even whether it is after three days of futile makes an attempt and seeing stay trout actually leaping out from the water proper in entrance of you.

Consultants name fly fishing the true check of endurance, however should you’re decided to have your trout and eat it fast, there are methods… Milly’s Nation Trout Stall (013 254 0310) shares a stellar choice of domestically and sustainably farmed trout and trout merchandise – sourced from the close by trout farms at Machadodorp.

Milly’s has all of it – from entire fish to smoked slivers and all of the pâtés you possibly can think about. The trout roulade is a should. 013 256 0718,

And in Johannesburg, the freshest of fish is out there at Fisherman’s Deli. It’s a bustling spot that smacks of the ocean within the upmarket suburb of Dunkeld West. The sushi chef whips up extremely tasty morsels you possibly can eat there, however most folks purchase their fish to take residence. It shares all number of contemporary fish, oysters and generally contemporary calamari and mussels. Locals swear by it. 011 325 2577,

By Louzel Lombard Steyn

A model of this text appeared within the September 2022 print situation of Getaway

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