How Best To Cook Ocean-Fresh Fish On The Braai

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Fresh fish on the braai… Ask any seaside holidaymaker, and they all say the same: “I’d love to have some fresh seafood while I’m here”.

Not the kind of “fresh fish” sold in upcountry supermarkets and restaurants, but the kind that is only available at the coast.

Genuine catch of the day is the yellowfin tuna that was still cruising the currents this morning. Or the dorado that was out chasing sardines while you were sipping your morning coffee.

Once a month when spring low tide comes around the mussel beds become exposed, locals head down to the shallow reefs to pick their licensed quota of fresh mussels for the pot.

Fresh Caught Mussles ftw

It’s a privilege that those living at the coast appreciate as part of seaside living, but will never take for granted. Sport fishermen keep a close eye on the weather charts and when the barometer is steady or on the rise, it’s game on!

We spoke to KZN North Coast amateur fisherman, Guy Bishop about catching game fish, and he shares his famous Asian Marinade recipe for tuna steaks, dorado as well as king and queen mackerel.

This recipe tops the Umgeni Kayak Fishing Club’s fish recipes page and is guaranteed to get you and your bros hooked.

Eat, Buy & Fish Responsibly

As a responsible kayak fisherman, Guy highlights the importance of being conservation-minded: “Familiarise yourself with the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) guidelines, and stick to bag and size limits.”

Man on a fishing kayak shows catch fish. Leisure activities on the sea. Fisherman on the islands.

“Don’t be the guy at the braai who brings out a fish that is out of season or undersized, even if it was given to you. And definitely don’t post pictures of it on social media.”

Fish species are under pressure and Guy says the norm amongst responsible fishermen is to catch and release and only keep what you are going to eat.

Yellowfin tuna, dorado, queen mackerel and Natal snoek have no scales and are pelagic favourites along the KZN North Coast. However, catching and keeping species whose numbers are declining, including king mackerel, Garrick and billfish is frowned upon.

Preparation is key when cooking fresh fish

Fisherman cleaning fish by knife on wooden board outdoors

Before you whip out the charcoal braai in excitement, cleaning and filleting the fish is an irksome (and smelly) task that you need to carry out first. That said, Guy says the adrenalin rush from reeling in a majestic pelagic specimen makes it worth it.

“Nothing is more rewarding than cooking and eating a fish you caught and cleaned yourself. The feeling makes the fish taste a lot better.”

Preparation is key in achieving that perfectly succulent piece of fresh fish that leaves you craving for more. Food prep is best done with the best kitchen knives and kitchenware.

The best-suited piece from your kitchen knives set will ensure no fish goes to waste in the filleting process as well as perfectly straight tuna steaks or aesthetically pleasing slices for sashimi.

Certain fish is eaten with the skin on and must be scaled. This is done by scraping against the scales with the back of the knife. YouTube is the best place to find tutorials on fish cleaning.

How to cook fish, correctly

Fish steak being grilled over a charcola braai.

Many people marinate fish for hours before slapping on the charcoal braai or gas BBQ grill. However, Guy says there is no point in marinating fish as it kills the natural taste of the fish.

“Fish should be basted with a brush while cooking. Never marinate in lemon as the acid burns the fish. Lemon should only be drizzled over the fish after it’s been cooked.”

Guy says it is common for people to fire up the charcoal braai and put the fish on too high a heat and for too long. He says fish (except tuna steaks) should be cooked on low heat.

Both sides of a tuna steak should be seared on high heat for a maximum of two minutes each. Never turn the heat down.

“Tuna is the only fish that is served pink in the middle as cooked tuna is dry and unpleasant. Tuna can also be marinated as it has firm, red flesh.”

When cooking on a charcoal braai or gas BBQ grill, the fish should be put in last.

Cooking on a Charcoal Braai

“When cooking on a charcoal braai or gas BBQ grill, red meat (beef etc.) should be cooked first while the fire is still hot. Only add the fish when the coals on the charcoal braai start dying.”

While cooking fish on a charcoal braai is more common, pan grilling is also a nice option if done right.

Whether you bought kitchenware online or in-store, this is where that sturdy frying pan proves its worth: “Heat the pan until maximum heat and the oil sizzles. Then turn down the heat to number four as you put the fish in.”

Very importantly, fish should only ever be turned once: “Always place the fish flesh side down first to brown for a maximum of two minutes. Then turn over to the skin side to get nice and crispy skin.

Do not turn again or else the fish may come apart and you won’t be able to turn it back again.”

Guy cautions to never add pepper in high heat as the pepper will burn and go bitter. Salt, spices and basting should be added after the fish has been turned.

When grilling fish with Guy Bishop’s Asian Marinade (recipe below), he recommends adding only salt, pepper and Robertson’s Oriental Nori Rub.

The simplest way to test if fish is cooked is to use the match stick method: “Push the blunt side of a match stick in the fish.

If it comes out easily, the fish is cooked, but if the match stick gets a little stuck, then the fish needs a few more moments on the charcoal braai or gas BBQ grill.”

Recipe: Guy Bishop’s Asian Marinade For Fish

  1. Coat fish with Robertsons Oriental Nori Rub
  2. Mix in a bowl:
    • 1 tin of coconut milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
    • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon on honey
    • 1 teaspoon of garlic and ginger paste


  1. Mix well, warm it up and then allow cooling.
  2. Marinate the tuna (or in other types of fish),
  3. Fire up the charcoal braai and baste the fish with a brush
  4. Drizzle over the cooked fish again and also serve as a sauce.
  5. Enjoy!

* Quantities can be doubled, depending on how much fish you are cooking.

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