Story of a Plate: Bread and bokkom butter at Wolfgat

 

On the menu: Part of “Strandveld snacks” at the beginning of lunch

We were intrigued by all your dishes, but especially the bread with bokkom butter, which was like a bagna cauda, but West Coast style. Can you tell us about how that came about?

Kobus van der Merwe: At Oep ve Koep (our previous space which is still run by my family), we used to serve a fried bokkom* fillet in different versions – there was a breakfast-y one with egg, and we did a seared watermelon with bokkom and seaweed. And then everyone in the kitchen always grabbed and dipped their bread in the pan that we fried the bokkom in, because the juices were just ridiculous. We fried them in a little oil, and then we added butter while the bokkoms were heating up, and then, almost as a joke, because it’s the nicest feeling to clean a pan with bread in the kitchen, we started thinking of sending that to the table, and then just refining it a little bit.

There’s no garlic in it, just really nice salty farm butter, with even more salty bokkom, and a mix of whatever herbs we have an abundance of at that stage in the garden, so there’s some wild rosemary, normal rosemary, basil, buchu, and sometimes wild garlic (but not today).

We thought that that was such a clever, approachable, identifiably South African thing, and it tasted like how this coast feels, but totally European as well – it could transcend any location quite easily. But if you had to choose a dish to talk about, would this be the one?

Kobus: The bokkom butter has been with us for quite a while, and it’s kind of a signature; it’s a crowd-pleaser, and it’s a bokkom converter…. We make our own bokkoms using maasbanker*, which is slightly fattier, and is quite nice to apply in dishes because it’s not bone dry, but yes, the bokkom with melted butter…

*Notes:

Bokkom – salted and air-dried small fish; a West Coast speciality

Maasbanker – a widespread species of local fish, also known as horse mackerel

Where to get it: Wolfgat, 10 Sampson Street, Paternoster. Lunch and dinner by appointment only.

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