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Traditional Cape Malay Pickled Fish

Traditional Cape Malay Pickled Fish


A Cape tradition influenced by Malay flavours. Often enjoyed over the Easter weekend, but delicious any time of year!

  • Makes : 2 |
  • Difficulty:

  • Prep Time : 60 mins |
  • Cook Time : 15 mins
Categories: Fish & Seafood, Lunch, Mains
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2 Tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 large onions, sliced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh ginger, grated
3 – 4 whole dried chillies
1 C (250 ml) cider vinegar
½ C (125 ml) water
½ – 23 C (125 ml – 160 ml) brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like the sauce)
6 – 8 whole black peppercorns
3 cloves
3 all spice
3 bay leaves
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin powder
2 tsp (10 ml) coriander whole crushed
2 tsp (10 ml) yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) turmeric
1 Tbsp (15 ml) masala powder
salt and pepper to taste
½ – 1 tsp (2.5 – 5 ml) cornflour, dissolved in a little water (optional)

500 g firm white fish
100 g seasoned flour
3 – 4 eggs beaten
oil for deep frying
fresh coriander  to serve


Start the sauce by heating the oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the onions and sauté for about 2 minutes, allowing them to still retain some crunch. Add the ginger and garlic and continue cooking, make sure that the garlic does not burn.

Add the remainder of the dry spices and continue to cook. Add the sugar and allow to dissolve and lightly caramelise. Add the vinegar and water and allow to simmer (the ratio of water to vinegar can be adjusted according to personal taste and preference).

If you prefer to have a slightly thicker sauce, dissolve the corn flour in a little water and add to the simmering sauce. Allow to thicken and then remove from the heat.

Note: if the onions are left to cook longer they will not be crunchy, but this will allow the sauce to be thicker and sweeter.


Cut the fish into thick, finger-sized strips.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat.

Create an assembly line with the ingredients for deep-frying the fish – first the fish, then the seasoned flour and lastly the egg. Ensure you have a slotted spoon and sheets of paper towel ready for draining.

Coat the fish in flour, shake off the excess, and then coat in egg. Place the coated fish gently into the hot oil, take care – it will sizzle and spit. Fry until golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on the prepared paper towel. Continue this process until all the fish is fried.

Place the fish into a container and pour over the warm sauce, ensure that the sauce covers everything. Allow to cool and refrigerate for a minimum of two days to ensure the fish is well flavoured.

Serve warm, garnished with fresh coriander and a side of fresh sourdough bread and butter.