Enjoy this No-Bake Cape Malay Pickled Fish whenever you crave something fishy! Indulge in the fresh and rich flavours this traditional recipe has to offer.
What Is Cape Malay Pickled Fish
Cape Malay Pickled Fish is spiced fish that gets pan-fried and then marinated in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and flavourful spices.
Pickled Fish is a very popular dish amongst the Cape Malay community in Cape Town, South Africa. The concept of pickled fish is said to have originated from this community back in the Cape colony times as a way to preserve fresh fish. In modern times it is a favourite and must-have at Easter time. Traditionally it is a meal that is enjoyed on Good Friday by most families in the Cape Town area.
For this recipe, we recommend using firm-fleshed white fish fillets. Examples of white fish include haddock, cod, bass and snapper. Whitefish is generally a slightly sweet fish and will compliment all the herbs and spices used in the pickling marinade. The Cape Malay influence comes through strongly in the marinade, with rich and hearty spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, cloves, and turmeric powder being used. Fish masala spice is also used to tie it all together with that extra bit of hot spice coming through.
If time is on your side, be sure to prep and make this recipe at least a day prior to serving. And if possible, keep it refrigerated for even longer than a day. The longer it soaks in that flavourful marinade, the more delicious your dish will be!
If this recipe “pickles” your fancy, be sure to check out our Pickled Prawns recipe for some more delicious inspiration!
- 500 g firm-fleshed white fish fillets, skinless frozen may be used
- 5 ml sea salt use more as needed
- 80 ml fish masala use more as needed
- 40 ml seafood rub
- 80 ml sunflower or vegetable oil use more as needed
Blanched onion rings
- 400 g onion rings, 5mm slices approximately approximately 2 large brown onions
- 15 ml sea salt
- 6 cups water 1500 ml
- 2 cups white grape vinegar 500 ml
- 1 cup water 250 ml
- ⅔ cup fine granulated sugar 160 ml, taste the sauce then adjust to personal taste
- 5 ml sea salt adjust to personal taste
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 ml cumin seeds dry roasted
- 8 ml coriander seeds dry roasted
- 5 ml fennel seeds dry roasted
- 6 peppercorns dry roasted
- 6 cloves dry roasted
- 6 allspice berries dry roasted
- 2 ml ml turmeric powder
- 8 ml fish masala
- Coriander lettuce and thyme
Masala fish: If using frozen fish, defrost completely.
- Cut the fish into desired squares, wipe dry with a kitchen towel, you should have 12 pieces.
- Place a sheet of foil or parchment on a baking tray and arrange the fish pieces then sprinkle over half the salt and fish masala spice and seafood rub.
- Flip the fish pieces over and sprinkle the other side with the remaining salt and fish masala and seafood rub.
- Cover the dish with cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to fry when the pickling mix goes onto the stove.
- Heat a frying pan on medium-high and add enough oil to cover the base. Fry the fish on both sides until cooked through, put the fried fish onto a tray lined with foil.
Blanching the onions
- Slice the onions into 5 mm wide rings and sprinkle over 15 ml sea salt.
- Rub the salt into the onions and let sit until required.
- Bring the 1500 ml water to a boil in a medium-sized pot and blanch half of the onion rings for 10 seconds then remove to a colander.
- Repeat with the rest of the onion rings, discard the onion water and rinse the pot then put it back on the stove.
- To the pot on the stove add the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices and allow to simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavors of the spices to permeate the pickling marinade.
- Remove from the heat and add the onion rings to the pickling marinade.
Layering the Cape Malay pickled fish
- Lay half the fried fish into a glass casserole dish then cover with half the onion rings.
- Repeat with the rest of the fish and cover with the remaining onion rings, pour over all the juices and oil left on the foil.
- Pour over the hot pickling marinade and allow to cool at room temperature then cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate, allow the marinade to infuse the pickled fish overnight before eating (The longer it is refrigerated the more delicious it gets).
- Garnish and serve with fresh bread and butter, or mini flat bread.