Pickled fish is the favourite South African food eaten at Easter time together with Hot Cross Buns.  The recipe was originally devised by Cape Malay fishermen in an effort to preserve the catch for as long as possible. It is a delicious meal served with salads or just on its own with some crusty bread.

  • Firm fleshed Snoek or Yellowtail are the favoured fish to use.
  • Hake or Kingklip may 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.


  • 2 kgs filleted, skinned fish
  • Vegetable oil
  • 750ml grape vinegar
  • 250ml water
  • 200ml sugar
  • 15ml turmeric
  • 30ml curry powder
  • 7ml salt
  • 15ml whole black peppercorns
  • 15ml 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
  • 45ml cake flour


Cut the fish into slices about 4 – 5cm pieces. Fry in hot oil until cooked and drain on paper towel.
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, curry powder, salt, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.

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.

Drain the pickling liquid into a clean saucepan (reserve the onion mixture) and bring to the boil.
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.

Layer fish and onions into a glass dish, pour over the sauce, cover and refrigerate.
Pickled fish may be eaten as soon as it cools down. However, the flavour is even better after a couple of days.

Serves 6-8 people.

For a more modern take on this old classic and what to do with the leftovers go along to Jane-Anne Hobbs Scrumptious blog