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Curried fish

by: Shané Barnard | 26 Mar 2016

Curried fish or pickled fish is of Malay origin and is probably one of the Cape’s most famous delicacies – traditionally served at Easter. Malay fishermen, who lived mainly on fish, pickled their catch so it would keep for longer – as there were no fridges at the time. The right spices take this fish dish from ordinary to heavenly.

Serves: 8

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes



• 2–3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced

• 100g (125ml) soft brown sugar

• 50ml smooth apricot jam

• 750ml vinegar

• 1 knob fresh ginger, grated or chopped

• 3 cloves garlic, crushed

• 1 red chilli, chopped (optional)

• 45ml garam masala or mild curry powder

• 5ml cumin

• 5ml turmeric

• 5 whole cloves

• 5 allspice pods

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 lemon leaves

• 125ml water

• 15ml cornflour

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


• 2kg fish fillets

• salt and pepper

• flour

• oil and butter for frying


1. Put all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring continuously. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10–15 minutes until slightly thickened. If you prefer, you can first fry the onions in a little butter until soft, then add the garlic, ginger and spices and also fry this a little before adding the rest.

2. Pat the fish dry with kitchen towel, cut it into portions and season with salt and pepper. Roll each portion in flour and shake off the excess flour.

3. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and fry the fish until cooked and golden brown on both sides. Don’t fry all the fish at the same time – do it in smaller batches, otherwise it steams rather than fries.

4. Spoon a little sauce into a suitable glass or porcelain dish then add a layer of fish on top of the sauce. Cover the fish with a layer of sauce and repeat the layers until all the fish and sauce have been used. Allow to cool and cover with cling film. Refrigerate.


• The flavour of the curried fish improves with time – make a generous amount and give the flavours two to three days to develop before serving.

• This is a delicious light meal served with fresh bread rolls or wholewheat bread and butter – and a sambal or two.

• You can use yellowtail, kingklip, snoek, kabeljou (cob) or hake fillets. I prefer the first three firmer white fish; softer types such as hake don’t keep as well.

• Because the fish rests in a curry marinade, it’s wise to seal the dish carefully before placing it in the fridge – otherwise everything will smell and taste like curry!

- Homemag


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