How to make pickled fish for Easter 2022 | Classic SA tradition

How to make pickled fish for Easter 2022 | Classic SA tradition

Pickled fish is so common in South Africa, especially during easter. It is also prepared in a way to make it last for weeks, and here you will get all the secrets on how to make pickled fish for your family this Easter season.

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Pickled fish
Image:, @zola_nene
Source: Instagram

Curried fish is ultimately one of the easiest recipes to make, and it can take you about 20 minutes maximum to make it.

Where does pickled fish come from?

The Cape Malay pickled fish recipe is the most authentic pickle fish recipe. The original recipe originated from Cape Malay after Asians came to settle in South Africa. Since then, the recipe has changed and evolved but still maintains its unique qualities.

Cape Malay pickled fish recipe
Image:, @foodiesofSouthAfrica, (modified by author)
Source: UGC

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Traditional Cape Malay pickled fish recipe

The original Cape Malay recipe.


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 large onions
  • Fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 5 teaspoons of mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons of Tumeric
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of whole allspice or allspice powder
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cumin or cumin powder
  • White or red vinegar
  • 300 g of sugar
  • 2kg of fish fillets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour, for dusting


  1. Slice up the fish into portions (ensure it is defrosted if it was frozen) and dust up the portions in some flour.
  2. Place a tablespoon of oil in a pan, and when it is hot, place the fish in it. Let it fry for a short time, about 3 - 4 minutes so that it is golden brown but not overcooked. It will continue cooking in the sauce we will make later on.
  3. Sauté the onions in a stainless steel pan over medium heat with one tablespoon of oil till they are translucent.
  4. Crush the ginger, garlic, and spices if they were not pre-crushed. Ensure that they are finely crushed. Add them into the pan with the onions and gently fry until you can smell a fragrant aroma.
  5. Add in the sugar and vinegar. The sugar neutralizes the vinegar taste if you prefer a tangier taste. Stir completely until the sugar dissolves.
  6. Let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. You can use a glass container or any other non-metallic container for the last part of the recipe. Place the fish on the bottom and pour over the sauce you just made. Ensure it is all covered.
  8. Let it cool outside the fridge before putting it in to stay for 2-3 days before serving.

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Durban pickled fish recipe

This recipe differs slightly from the Cape Malay recipe but is just as good.

Cape Malay recipe
Image:, @spicemeccaza
Source: Instagram


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds of John Dory fish
  • Lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • Cornflour
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 red and green pepper
  • 2 cups red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander


  1. Cut the fish into serving portions and marinate in some lemon, herbs, and spices for about 13 minutes.
  2. Get a large saucepan and add the oil to it. Once the oil is hot, take the fish and place it in the pan with the skin at the bottom.
  3. Let the fish cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until it turns opaque. You do not want it to firm up. Remove it from the oil and set it aside.
  4. In a stainless steel pan, place 2 tablespoons of oil and let it heat up. Once the oil is hot, put in the sliced onions and peppers and cook for about 4 - 5 minutes.
  5. Tip: You can add salt at this point to help the veggies to soften.
  6. Add in the crushed garlic, and when it starts to let out a fragrant aroma, add in all the finely crushed spices and mix it all up, ensuring all the vegetables are coated in the spice.
  7. Add in the cornflour and mix it well and then add in the water. The cornflour thickens the sauce. Gradually, bring it to a boil.
  8. Add in the vinegar and sugar and give it a good mix. Place the fish in your sauce and mix it up while it is still on the fire.
  9. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

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Pickled fish recipes
Image:, @foodiesofSouthAfrica, (modified by author)
Source: UGC

What do you eat with pickled fish?

Pickled fish is mainly eaten with a hot-cross bun. This gives it the perfect balance of sweet and sour. This is also because it is a meal best taken cold. When sliced in the middle and the fish placed in between, it looks like a burger.

You can also have it with lettuce, roti, toast, and any other baked goods.

Which fish is best for pickles?

All seafood can be pickled but the best ones are oily. They undergo great transformations in texture when cured in acidic environments.

The Cape Malay recipes mainly use snook fish, which is part of the Barracuda family. It is a strong fish with many bones. Another alternative is the monkfish or John Dory.

How long does pickled fish last?

Pickled fish can last up to two weeks if stored in the refrigerator. The vinegar in the recipes also makes it last longer. As we know, the dish is best served cold.

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These pickled fish recipes should get you through easter time like a breeze, and you can maintain all those classic memories that you have of this amazing dish.

Source: Briefly News

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