Traditional South African Pickled Fish

There are so many old, old ways of cooking, which are on their way to oblivion, a pity. Like this one, some date back to times when there was no refrigeration, and ways had to be found to preserve foods. This is still a beloved dish.


  • 1kg firm white fish (kingklip or hake), whole or cut into portions
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  •  thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 5 ml whole coriander seeds, crushed
  • 5 ml garam masala
  • 10ml ground turmeric
  • 15ml curry powder
  • 5ml salt
  • 3Tbs sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 11/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 300ml water


 45 min

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Now add all the aromatics (spices) and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Add the salt, sugar, bay leaves, vinegar and water. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Place the fish carefully in the pan and spoon the sauce over the fillet. Cover and Simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through.

Lift the fish carefully from the pan with a fish slice and place in a non-metallic dish.

Transfer the sauce to a processor and blitz until smooth (this is optional, you can keep in thick and lumpy if you wish). Pour the sauce over the fish and cover with cling film.

Chill for 2-3 days.

Serve the pickled fish at room temperature with red onion pickle if you wish and crusty baguettes alongside.


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