FOODSTUFF: Where to fish for freshness

Is Cape Town’s best fish found in Joburg? Fish wholesalers say this is sometimes true because Capetonians are price-conscious yet Gauteng customers don’t flinch at spending more. Being able to buy from Cape Town and Mozambique also increases their options.

The Cape fishing industry is plagued by stormy winters where boats can’t go out to sea regularly. So during a particularly wet patch I asked locals to share their shopping recommendations. I discovered that sourcing fresh fish in Cape Town is about extra effort, and trust. While it’s convenient to shop at a retailer’s fish counter, their quality and product knowledge is inconsistent, even if a reputable supplier is involved.

Most shoppers for home use support smaller fishmongers, paying extra for freshness, familiarity and the odd cooking tip. Fishmongers that sell pre-frozen fish occasionally, are honest with their customers to ensure repeat business. Some gut whole fish on the spot; others supply fresh vacuum-packed fillets with no comebacks.

Need to know
Aim for a fishmonger with less stock and good foot traffic to guarantee freshness. A wide variety in winter probably means some fish has been pre-frozen. Hake is available all year round, but if you’re buying fresh tuna in winter it’s unlikely to be pole-caught sustainably as per the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s recommendations.

The SASSI website offers a list of sustainable orange and green fish. Although legal, few reputable fishmongers sell red fish species. If you value eating sustainably, ask how it’s caught and experiment with less popular green species.

In June, weather permitting, Cape waters should deliver fresh hake, angelfish and monktails. There’s also farmed kabeljou/kob – all SASSI green. From the orange list you could find fresh kingklip, sea-caught kabeljou/kob, Red Roman and Cape salmon.

Try these
Fish4Africa José Moniz and family own this no-frills wholesaler and their own fishing vessel. Their flagship branch moves a lot of fresh and pre-frozen fish at good prices. They prep it and include free lemons. Woodstock, 021-448-5258.

Food Lover’s Market One of the biggest fish selections in the northern suburbs, their display offers detailed SASSI labelling of fresh and pre-frozen fish, but their staff knowledge is erratic. Buy whole or pre-filleted fish. Willowbridge, 021-914-8011.

Ocean Jewels Julie Carter’s selection is small because she sells only fresh and pushes green species. Most fish is pre-filleted, but you can request whole fish from the back fridge. Join her popular email list – a R20 delivery fee extends to the northern suburbs. Woodstock, 083-582-0829.

Ocean’s Edge Michael Mendonca draws on his work experience at large retailers to offer customers personalised service (they pin-bone whole fish) and a small, fresh supply. Open Sunday mornings and weekdays until 7pm. They also sell portions. Sea Point, 021-433-0860.

Southern Cross Seafood Deli More restaurant than fishmonger, Clive Greyvenstein’s deli also sells fish stock and chowder. A Muizenberg fish wholesaler (his former business partner) delivers assorted fish fillets daily. Palmyra, 021-671-5002.

The Little Fisherman A small selection of whole fish is gutted to order. Portions possible too. Newlands. 021-794-5526.

Vredehoek Kwikspar Johnny Telo’s relatives are SASSI-compliant fishermen, so he cuts costs by buying whole fresh fish direct, and having staff vacuum-pack fillets. Join their fish SMS list for affordable hake and occasional tuna (in summer). Imported Norwegian salmon is cheaper too. Vredehoek, 021-461-4455.

This article appeared in The Times on 11 June 2014