Why kingklip doesn't help you get a head

Friday, 3 September 1999

Have you ever stopped to consider, as you stroll down the aisle past the fish counter looking at the hake, shad (or elf or whatever strange name you funny carpers call it), red roman, and others, that all of them look back at you — except for the kingklip?

Think about it. Delicious, firm fleshed, melts in your mouth — reminds of the joke about the two guys who went walking up the railway line and… Naw, it’s too disgusting. The punchline goes: “I dunno, I couldn’t find her head.” But I digress…

They decapitate the kingklip before putting ‘em on sale! And you never noticed! And you never stopped to ask: Where is its head?

Many years ago when Africa as we now know it was called Gondwanaland and was locked into a geothermic dance with Laurasia, animals crossed freely between India and the Kruger Park, which is why lions and elephants and crocodiles are native to both lands. And the people of these lands exchanged some eating habits, including a fondness for full-cream milk deliberately curdled with selected bacterial cultures.

The Indians today generally call it dahi. The Nguni call it amasi.

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So, get yourself some kingklip, (skinned and filleted, s’il vous plait), and cut into steaks. For the marinade, you’ll need about a tablespoon of garam masala, about a half tablespoon of coriander powder, a half dozen cloves of crushed garlic, and some salt. (P’nP at Kenilworth has an excellent blend of garam masala at the loose spice counter.) Add a little more than a half cup of amasi. (If you’re too far west of the Muizenberg railway line to find amasi among the dairy produce, you can use plain yoghurt instead.)

Dip the fish into the marinade, drizzle a bit of ghee over the pieces, and braai over coals. (If you can’t find ghee, nuke two tablespoons of butter on high and skim off the foam. The clear gold liquid left behind is ghee.) Serve sprinkled with finely sliced onion previously rinsed in vinegar, slices of green chili if you like, and lemon wedges.

Oh, yes. (Thanks for reminding me, Mrs Jones.) They lose the kingklip heads because they look remarkably feline. And all of us know that only strange people from strange places in the far east would eat dear little pussycats…

Miaow.