Proper South African Pickled Fish

Pickled fish is a Cape Malay speciality, normally eaten at Easter, together with hot cross buns. The recipe was originally devised by Cape Malay fishermen in an effort to preserve their catch for as long as possible.

It’s a delicious South African meal, tangy and spicy, best served with salads or just on its own with some crusty bread. Although the dish originated in the Western Cape it is a much-loved dish by everyone throughout the country.

Serve it hot or cold, depending on the weather and your mood.

Pickled Fish

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2kg filleted, skinned fish
  • Vegetable oil
  • 750ml grape vinegar
  • 250ml water
  • 200ml sugar
  • 15ml turmeric
  • 30ml curry powder
  • 7ml salt
  • 1 tableespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 4 large onions finely sliced
  • 6 bay leaf or lemon leaves
  • 2 green or red chillies seeded and sliced
  • 4 thin slices green ginger
  • 5 tablespoons cake flour


  1. Cut the fish into slices about 4 – 5cm pieces. Fry in hot oil until cooked and drain on paper towel.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, curry powder, salt, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the onions, bay or lemon leaves, chillies and ginger, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes. The onion should be limp but slightly crunchy.
  4. Drain the pickling liquid into a clean saucepan (reserve the onion mixture) and bring to the boil.
  5. Mix a little of the sauce into the flour to form a thin paste, stir into the sauce and simmer lightly for two minutes to thicken slightly.
  6. Layer fish and onions into a glass dish, pour over the sauce, cover and refrigerate.
  7. Pickled fish may be eaten as soon as it cools down. However, the flavour is even better after a couple of days.
  8. Firm fleshed snoek or yellowtail are the favoured fish to use. Hake or kingklip can also be used.

    Firm fish will keep for up to 6 months if kept in the fridge.

    Delicate fish such as hake or Cape salmon can be kept for 2–3 months.

Pickled Fish Pâté

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 can (400g) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup (125ml) plain yoghurt
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 500g pickled fish, fish pieces with onions and the sauce separated
  • 1 packet (20g) flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and milled pepper


  1. Mash beans, yoghurt, salad onions, pickled fish pieces, half the sauce and parsley together until coarse.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve pâté with toasted bread.
  4. What to do with leftover pickled fish? Make pickled fish pâté, of course!
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07/03/2022 12:02 am GMT

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