It’s actually quite amazing what influence the Cape Malay had on traditional South African dishes.  Take this pickled fish, varied in many recipes, but unmistakingly characterized by the liberal use of spices influenced by Indian, Indonesian, Asian, Dutch and the French.  During the week leading up to Easter, just about everyone in Cape Town will be preparing pickled fish!

This is a fabulous summer dish with a side salad, fresh bread and a glass of white wine as well!

You’ll need

  • 1 kg x firm white fish cut into portion (cod, hake, halibut, kingklip, bream, snoek, etc)
  • Flour for dusting
  • Salt
  • 6 Tbs x olive oil for frying and maybe a little bit extra
  • 2 x white onions, sliced thinly
  • 4 x cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3cm x fresh ginger grated
  • 250ml x white vinegar
  • 125ml x water
  • 150g x sugar
  • 3 tsp x marsala or mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp x tumeric
  • 3 x bay leaves
  • ½ tsp x whole all spice
  • ½ tsp x whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon whole black pepper corns
  • 1 tsp x coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp x whole cumin seeds
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning


  1. Start by grinding the coriander and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a stainless steel pan and gently sauté the onion until translucent.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic and all the spices and gently fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add the vinegar, water and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Dust the fish with seasoned flour and pat off any excess flour.
  6. Heat the remaining olive oil for frying in a heavy-based pan until hot and fry the fish until golden but cooked through.
  7. Remove and place on paper towel to rid excess oil.
  8. Start by layering the fish in a glass or non-metallic container, pour a little of the hot sauce over it until covered.
  9. Continue the layering process until all the fish is covered. Cool.
  10. Cover and place in fridge to chill.

The fish is best left for 2 or 3 days to absorb the flavours, but making it the day before and an overnight stay in the fridge will also work. What to serve the pickled fish with is an open debate. I can remember eating it as a young girl with fresh bread and grape jam. (See my South African seed, date and raisin loaf) For my dinner party, I wanted to bring an element of sophistication into the dish. See my recipe of mango and pineapple salsa and lime sorbet.

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