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Food Jams Mostly Famous Cape Malay Pickled Fish

Prep Time:

20 Minutes

Cook Time:

1 Hour


4 Servings



About the Recipe

This flavourful dish has a rich history dating back to the 17th century when Dutch settlers first arrived in the Cape of Good Hope. As they encountered the abundant marine life along the coast, they adapted their pickling techniques to preserve fish, creating what would become known as pickled fish.
Originally, pickled fish was a practical means of preserving fish for long sea voyages, as well as a way to utilize surplus catches. Over time, this preservation method evolved into a beloved dish enjoyed during Easter and other festive occasions, particularly by Cape Malay Muslims during Ramadaan.
The recipe for South African pickled fish typically involves marinating firm white fish such as snoek, yellowtail, or angelfish in a blend of spices and aromatics, then gently simmering or frying the fish before placing it in a pickling solution. The pickling solution, which gives the dish its distinctive tangy flavour, usually includes vinegar, sugar, onions, and various spices such as turmeric, ginger, and coriander seeds. The fish is then left to mature in the pickling liquid for several days, allowing the flavours to meld and develop.
Pickled fish is often served cold, either as a starter or as part of a larger meal, accompanied by sides such as bread, rice, or salads. Its tangy, slightly sweet flavour profile makes it a refreshing and satisfying dish, perfect for warm weather gatherings and festive occasions.
Despite its historical roots, pickled fish remains a popular dish in modern South African cuisine, cherished for its unique taste and cultural significance. It continues to be passed down through generations, with each family adding its twist to the traditional recipe, ensuring that pickled fish remains a cherished part of South Africa's culinary heritage.



  • 800 g firm yellowtail or other SASSI fish (80 g pieces)

  • ½ cup + 1 T sunflower oil

  • ½ cup flour or cornstarch if you prefer gluten-free

  • 1 onion, sliced into rings

  • 2 garlic cloves, slivered

  • 3 cm piece ginger, grated

  • 4 T of Food Jams' Secret Spice Mix

  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

  • 2 T castor sugar

  • 100 ml apple cider vinegar

  • sea salt

  • fresh coriander seeds, fresh coriander and coriander flowers with assorted mixed baby greens for garnish


Let's Get Cooking, Good-Looking!


  1. Start by pouring about ½ cup of sunflower oil into your pan and crank it up to medium-high heat. Now, let's get that fish ready for its sizzling adventure.

  2. Season it to your liking and give it a little dusting of flour—make sure to tap off any excess so it's just perfectly coated.

  3. It's time to fry! Lay your fish in the hot oil and let each side turn a lovely golden brown, just until the fish is cooked through. Once it's crispy and golden, lift it out and let it relax on some paper towels.

  4. Now, for the magical pickling liquid! In a new pan, warm up a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Toss in the onion and let it soften up on a low heat. Next, stir in the ginger and garlic until they're nice and soft, filling your kitchen with their aromatic goodness.

  5. Throw in your magic Food Jams Secret Spice Mix. Watch and listen as they start to pop and sizzle, releasing their spicy aromas. Stir everything is wonderfully fragrant.

  6. It’s time to sweeten the deal. Add your sugar, let it dissolve into a dreamy sweetness, then pour in the vinegar. Cook it down until it's deliciously syrupy. Feel free to play around with the vinegar and sugar ratios to hit that perfect sweet and tangy balance. Season it to your taste.

  7. Drape this glossy pickling elixir over your fish. You can chill it in the fridge or go straight for the gusto and serve it up now.


Tomato Sambal


60 g red onion, brunoise

60 g radish, brunoise

200 g tomato, seeds removed, brunoise

25 g fresh coriander

1 T extra virgin olive oil

sea salt to taste



Chop all ingredients in fine brunoise (very small blocks) and mix with the remaining ingredients.




10 g radish, sliced into discs

3 g coriander seeds, toasted

2 g coriander leaves

2 g suurings, aka oxalis (those sour things you ate when you were a kid in South Africa) (stems and flowers)


Final Countdown

Place a small amount of mixed green on plates or platters.  Top with pickled fish and spoon over the pickling liquid with onions.  Top with tomato sambal and garnish with fresh coriander, fresh coriander seeds, radish discs and suuring stems and flowers.  Serve with warm homestyle bread of your choice.

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