Fish breath. Not exactly a pleasant thought, is it? And I'm not gonna lie to you, after eating this, most likely only your mother will want to kiss you. On second thoughts, maybe not even your mother. Unless you employ some serious bribe action. Note how I've even excluded TheHusband in this category. Fish breath is serious business people.
Also, the frying bokkoms* will make your entire kitchen smell like a fish factory for about a day or so. Unless you follow the advice of fellow SA Blogger CollyWolly. Even our cats seemed less than impressed. I kid you not - the smell is strong. No make that Strong. With a capital "s".
So why the heck am I writing about all this stank you might (rightly) wonder? Well. Let me put it to you like this:
Think crispy crunchy anchovy-like morsels tossed with slippery ribbons of tagliatelle and zucchini and dressed to perfection with lashings of olive oil and lemon juice. Interested yet? Bokkoms* really are no different (in taste at least) to anchovies. Salty and intense and yes super fishy, but the flavour is unmatched. And afterall, you're only using a wee bit at a time, so really there's nothing to be afraid of.
Still don't believe me? Well, this dish is a close approximation of my first encounter with the fear-inducing bokkoms* and I was instantly smitten. Ready to take the plunge then?
* For my overseas readers unfamiliar with the term, bokkoms are a distant cousin to that famous South African delicacy, biltong. Which, as you know is dried, cured meat. Bokkoms apply the same idea to fish, using whole mullets, found in abundance along the West Coast of South Africa. They are are heavily salted and carry a notoriously fishy odour.
Bokkom & Chilli Tagliatelle
Inspired by Sardines on Toast
pinch of salt, plus extra to taste
2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 small-ish green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 bokkoms, finely sliced
2 large zucchini
lemon juice to drizzle
crumbled feta, to serve (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil, then add pasta and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small frying pan. Flash fry the garlic and chilli, then add the bokkoms, frying for another few minutes or until crispy.
3. Start making thin zucchini ribbons and halve each ribbon lengthwise. By this time, the tagliatelle will almost be done, so add the zucchini to the pot to cook for the last minute or so. Zucchini should not be mushy, just between crunchy and soft.
4. Drain pasta and zucchini and toss with bokkoms. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste with salt (but this probably won't be necessary as the bokkoms are quite salty on their own). Crumble feta over, if using, and serve immediately.
For my fellow South Africans: Bokkoms are available freely in delis and roadside stalls along the West Coast. Select delis/specialist stores elsewhere will also stock it, but it's pretty difficult to track down. In my hometown of Stellenbosch, I know Oom Samie's stocks it (vacuumpacked = WIN).