“After a while crocodile” is what we said following a long, arduous, and eventually successful hunt for wild African river crocs. When I bagged an 11+ footer and expressed my interest in dining on the beast, the outfitter claimed the tail as excellent table fare. It proved, in fact, to be one of the best meals of the trip, and that’s no knock against the delectable tenderloins of days past. Crocodile nuggets are the real deal, and this recipe is adapted from one created by our amazing African camp chef, Beulah.
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Serves: 8-10, depending on amount of meat
Crocodile tail meat (can substitute alligator), cut into approximately 1/2 to 1-inch cubes
for oil frying.
Flour, preferably cake flour
Salt and pepper, freshly ground
Sweet chili sauce
Begin by butchering the animal as soon after the harvest as possible. We got a large section of the tail from the skinners in the field, iced it, and went back later to take the choicest cut off the dense layer of fat. Though there’s initially more of a fishy than meaty scent to the crocodile meat, when harvested wild and fresh the end result is mild, white, tender, and delicious – an absolutely underrated African gem and a must-try. Chunk the meat into bite-size nuggets as uniform as possible for even cooking. Dredge the croc nuggets in the buttermilk, and it’s fine to let it soak for a while if you prefer. From there, dredge it in egg and then into the blend of dry breading ingredients. Repeat the egg-flour bath at least twice. Our chef preferred three lighter coatings.
While the oil heats, preferably in a cast-iron pan, prepare the dipping sauce or remoulade. While this is our favorite, feel free to substitute your own. Mix enough sauce for your amount of nuggets. Nearly equal amounts of condensed milk and mayo work well but add the flavorful secondary ingredients according to your own taste. We like a little zing, so we added plenty of the latter two.
We cut the nuggets fairly thin. They needn’t be perfectly uniform, so they cook up quickly without being overdone. When the oil is hot, add the nuggets, being sure not to crowd the pan. Depending on the size, they’ll only take 2-3 minutes per side. Flip them as the breading gets to golden brown. Move to a plate lined with paper toweling to absorb extra oil. Serve immediately to hungry hunters. Even skeptical diners will want to have a taste.
Though this could easily be served as the main course of a meal – and deserved to be the featured fare – we weren’t sure and ate it as an appetizer. It proved so good, in fact, that nobody had any room for the actual meal. Even for the faint of heart, who may scoff at the idea of reptilian dining, remember the breaded and seasoned nuggets along with the sauce make it more palatable for all, though the qualities of the croc meat still shine through.