Pickled Fish Recipe

In Cape Town the diversity of cultures has led us to be influenced by culinary traditions from many other nationalities. Very often a braai includes pap and smoor which is an African dish and the Indian samoosa is part of every household’s common language. As Muslims, we don’t celebrate Easter but the hot cross bun is an easter staple and has even caused some controversy – if you can remember the Woolworths halaal stamp furore from a few years ago, where some Christians got upset because Woolworths added a halaal stamp to their bag. Perhaps they felt Muslims were hijacking Easter… 😅

And of course Pickled Fish, which is typically served on Good Friday. This particular tradition is uniquely South African and the jury is out as to what the significance is. We do know that snoek gets very expensive this time of the year and for many Easter is not complete without this spicy and tangy dish. My mom always prepared a batch around this time of the year. Some people eat it with bread or rolls to mop up all that sauce. I like it on the side of a fried egg. Here is my mom’s recipe which is much easier than you might think.

Pickled Fish

Preparing the fish

1 kg Snoek cut into pieces
1 ½ tsp ground jeera (cumin)
1 tsp ground dhunya (coriander)
1 tsp freshly ground garlic
1 ½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt

Add a little water to the spices to form a paste. Smear this on the fish and shallow fry in oil until cooked.


1 to 2 large onions depending on your preference for onions.
3 bay leaves,
4 allspice,
4 cloves, and
4 peppercorns.
2 tsp Cartrights curry
2 cups vinegar,
½ cup water
2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

Braise the onion on medium heat with the bay leaves, allspice, cloves and peppercorns in a little oil. Don’t overcook the onions, they must not brown or get too soft. Add the Cartrights Curry powder and stir through. Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Place your fish into the mixture, cover with a lid and simmer for another 5 minutes then remove from stove. Enjoy.


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