25 Jul 2024
Recipe of the week: Pickled fish
Community Expat Cookbook

Recipe of the week: Pickled fish

Those with less mature taste-buds may claim they’d rather boil and consume their muddy gumboots than sample cold, pickled fish and admittedly I used to be one of those people, but the adage “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it” applies here. It’s actually really lekker, reasonably healthy and has the additional benefit of being proudly proclaimed South African. In fact, we have the Cape Malay culture to thank for this dish.

Even though pickled fish is traditionally eaten over Easter time, it is generally enjoyed year-round often as a side dish, starter or as a main course with fresh bread and a salad.



1 kg of fish (generally hake or yellowtail) scaled and filleted, but with the skin left on

½ cup brown sugar

5 cloves garlic

2 large onions

1 cup grape vinegar

½ cup water

8 peppercorns

4 cloves

4 allspice berries (if you can’t find allspice, just combine in equal parts ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper)

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp curry powder

2 tsp cumin, ground

2 tsp coriander, ground

1 tsp turmeric

coarse salt, as needed



  1. Roughly chop the garlic
  2. Peel and slice the onions into rings
  3. Sprinkle coarse salt on both sides of the fillet and let it chill in a bowl for 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the fillet under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  5. Cut the fish into serving portions leaving the skin attached.
  6. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the fish until cooked through
  7. Chuck the rest of the ingredients into a large pot and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  8. Leave to simmer for approximately 8 minutes until the onions are cooked but still crisp.
  9. Layer the pieces of fish, sauce and onions alternately in a serving dish.
  10. Ensure that the last layer of fish is covered with sauce.
  11. Leave to cool and then refrigerate.

Enjoy, as per tradition, with family and friends… and uncles and aunties and especially with cousins.



Want more fantastic recipes? Check out our Expat Cookbook!


Recipe and Photo Credit: Kirsten Smart

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