Dry-aged fish comes to SA, but what exactly is it?

Dry-aged fish comes to South Africa, but what actually is it? Picture: Supplied

Dry-aged fish comes to South Africa, but what actually is it? Picture: Supplied

Published May 12, 2022


When you think about dry ageing, often red meats like beef come to mind. What many people don’t think about what dry-aged fish is.

Normal fridge products degrade with time, in a dry-ager the product improves with time, this applies to fish too.

According to experts, dry ageing your fish is a great way to evoke unique flavours creating a completely different taste altogether.

While dry-aged fish is popular worldwide, the process has only recently reached South African shores.

Kurt Hill, of Cape Fish, the first company to offer the product in SA says dry ageing removes moisture from the fish but it still remains incredibly juicy and tender, with a mouth-watering flavour.

He says you can’t compare it to fresh fish, and certainly not to bokkoms. Kurt adds that removing moisture means that there is an intensification of flavour as the fats develop and the “bad” proteins break down, so it’s a cleaner cut of meat without the fishy smell that puts so many people off fish.

“It’s so clean, it makes excellent sashimi and nigiri. Dry ageing is an art rather than a science and can include curing and smoking. There are no formulae – it requires patience and a controlled environment and can take anywhere from a few days to weeks. It depends on each individual fish.

“A great advantage is that the process extends a fish’s prime period from a few days to 20 or more, maximising the time that we can use to ensure we utilise all of the fish,” he says.

Picture: Supplied


Kurt says dry-aged fish can then be prepared exactly as you would with fresh fish (fried, steamed, braaied, in a seafood soup or stew).

“Because there’s less moisture in the fish, it cooks more evenly – and over direct heat, the outside will crisp to perfection. For those of you that like the skin crispy, look no further.

“Dry-aged fish also takes on other flavour profiles really well, so it’s very good seared like a steak or raw on a salad, lightly drizzled with a simple lemon and mustard dressing. I prefer to pan-fry it simply with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. I think that’s the best way to appreciate the rich flavour that has developed through the meat as it ages,” he says.

Where is it available?

Cape Fish supplies restaurants and the public with frozen, fresh, and dry-aged seafood products online or from their premises in Paarden Eiland in Cape Town.

Salsify at the Roundhouse, The Pot Luck Club, Obi, and Orca Café are some of the well-known Cape restaurants that have dry-aged fish on their menu.

It is also sold over the counter as part of the Cape Fish Butcher Line, which includes intriguing products like swordfish bacon, marlin carpaccio, and salmon sausages that have given pescatarians a new range of dishes to enjoy.

Related Topics: