Cape Town – Snoek is out there – but it will cost you.
The Easter holiday at the end of the week will see many enjoying pickled fish, a classic delicacy of onions, vinegar and spices traditionally eaten on Good Friday and almost always prepared with snoek.
But scant supply and high demand means the price of the quintessential Cape Town fish skyrockets at this time of year. How drastically depends on where you buy.
“Everybody wants snoek,” said Amina Fredericks, on the Kalk Bay Harbour docks om Tuesday, standing among heaps of fish.
Minutes earlier, a boat pulled up to the dock with about 70 snoek, the biggest load the harbour had seen in weeks.
Merchants with tables at the harbour are generally the first to gather around the vessels and bid on fish auction-style. Around Easter, they pay about R100 to R140 a fish, before turning around and selling to chefs, home cooks and other casual buyers right off the dock. On Tuesday, most 4kg snoek were going for R160.
Merchant volunteer AJ Abrahams said shoppers would maybe pay R80 for the same fish next week.
But Abrahams said taking an extra hour to buy fresh snoek at the harbour was worth the hassle, calling the snoek “cheaper than Pick n Pay, and fresher than I&J”.
Fish hawkers also bid on the snoek off the boat, buying in bulk before loading up trucks and selling nearer to town. At the Athlone fish market off Klipfontein Road, the same large snoek stacked high at the harbour was going for R200 to R250 from the back of a bakkie, with the higher price tag accounting for butchering services and petrol costs.
Last-minute shoppers can buy snoek cleaned, sealed and stamped at grocery stores, but it can be almost more difficult to find than fishing in the ocean.
Pick n Pay in Rondebosch didn’t have any fresh snoek yesterday, while nearby Checkers was selling cuts less than 1kg for R29.90/kg. I&J had none yesterday also, but said their imported snoek from Namibia usually sold for about R24/kg.
Back at the harbour, 74-year-old Jennifer Lambard said she had been making pickled fish all her life and never paid much attention to the price of snoek. “I make the fish and whoever wants it, eats it.”