The finest eating fish in all seven oceans. Big words? Yes, but I am South African and the galjoen is our national fish. But patriotic trumpets aside, the galjoen truly is one of the world’s most uniquely delicious fish.
Thank heavens the Yellow Monsters have not discovered this creature otherwise the triads will be hard at work commandeering the Cape Flats’ finest to decimate our coastline in search of this gorgeous fish.
The galjoen,,Coracinus capensis, is not easy to come by ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ like all good things. It may not be caught for any commercial purpose whatsoever, so to obtain one you have to fish for it yourself or know a friend who can invite you to a galjoen dinner. And taking scarcity into account, he or she must be a very good friend, often willing to demand illicit physical favours in exchange for one of these fish.
There is a closed season from 16 October to,28 February,when the fish may not be caught or disturbed. And don’t think you can arrange for an overseas friend overseas to obtain a galjoen for you. This fish is exclusively found south of the border between Namibia and Angola to the northern shores of KwaZulu-Natal.
No big deal, you say. You’ll go and catch one yourself.
Good luck, hombre.
As a fish, the galjoen is one part Stephen Hawking and one part Jack the Ripper. Clever, cunning and knows how to fight to the end.
Surprisingly, it is not a very big fish with average size running between 1,5kg to 4,5kg. To catch it you have to cast a line in the frothy gullies on the ocean’s edge where galjoen feed in the surfline. If you manage to fool one into taking your bait of mussel, worm or red-bait, the galjoen puts up a hell of a fight, tying your line up in the kelp or cutting it on the rocks.
But the search for this elusive quarry is well worth it, because as an eating fish there are few in the sea that rival the flavour and texture of a galjoen. I’ve had red mullet, blue-fin tuna, barramundi, grouper, rock cod, striped bass, Chesapeake blue fish, wild Irish salmon, orange roughy and Patagonian toothfish ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ but galjoen whips all their scaly butts.
A galjoen’s uniqueness as an eating fish is a result of a high fat and blood content. Pretty much the same reason we like duck, I’d say.
Because it spends its life in shallow rough water, muscling between reefs to grab crabs and mussels and worms, it has a big heart requiring millions of veins to pump enough oxygen through the flesh so as to keep the little blighter going. And to protect it from the cold water, the fish has an immense amount of fat, the extent of which I’ll get to later.
The veins and fat, as well as the fish’s yummy sushi-bar diet, ensure a meat with a flavour unlike any you will find in any other fish. It is a rich, creamy and very special marine taste. Oyster shell. Lobster. Fish sauce.
So if you do happen to get your hands on a galjoen, it is important to know there is only one way to prepare it and that is barbecued on a grid over an open fire. The reason is the fat which needs to cook out of the fish: I once experimented by pan-frying a 2kg galjoen. Within 10 minute the fish was literally poaching in its own fat. Another five minutes and I removed three cups of fat that had bubbled out of the fish.
I am not aware of any studies done to ascertain the omega content of this fat, but I do know that it is extremely rich and will have the most vociferous foie gras eater on his knees, crying for mercy and puking his lungs out if the galjoen is not cooked properly.
So if you get your hands on a galjoen, you do the following:
- ?+¦?????+¦???? From the tail, cut along the backbone with a sharp knife. Continue until you have sliced through the head.
- ?+¦?????+¦???? Open-up the fish and remove the organs and the thick strips of belly-fat.
- ?+¦?????+¦???? Quickly rinse the fish and towel dry.
- ?+¦?????+¦???? Season the inside with salt and pepper.
- ?+¦?????+¦???? Rub the skin with a light layer of olive oil to prevent it sticking to the grid.
- ?+¦?????+¦???? Place the fish ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ butterflied ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ in the grid.
- ?+¦?????+¦???? Barbecue for 20 minutes over medium hot coals.
You are now in heaven. The best wine is an unwooded Chardonnay or a chilled Pinotage. Savour every morsel.
And don’t tell the rest of the world.