South African cuisine is a vivid example of the “you are what you eat” concept put into delicious practice. This nation’s “rainbow cuisine” is a fusion between the traditional foods of South Africa’s indigenous people, and those of the Dutch, British, French, and German colonialists who began arriving in the country in the 17th century (as well as their slaves and servants). The result: An assortment of recipes that reflect these many influences, but possess an entirely South African uniqueness.
With more than 1,700 miles of coastline, South Africans can enjoy the bounty of the sea. Here's one recipe that reflects an assortment of flavors South Africa has to offer.
Cape Malay Pickled Fish
South Africa’s Cape Malay community features strong Indonesian tones—the legacy passed down from generation to generation since enslaved Javanese were shipped there by the Dutch East India Company in the mid-17th century. Now famous for its food and music, Cape Malay has woven some of its words and phrases into the English and Afrikaans spoken in South Africa.
While this recipe features yellowtail, any filleted fish can be used—and the mild-flavored result can be enjoyed warm or cold.
5 cloves garlic
2 large onions
2 lb. yellowtail, scaled and filleted, skin left on
Coarse salt, as needed
Oil, as needed for frying
1 cup grape vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup golden brown sugar
4 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs. curry powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
- Roughly chop the garlic, and peel and slice the onions into rings.
- Firm up the fish by sprinkling coarse salt on both sides of the fillet. Let this sit in a glass bowl for 20-25 minutes.
- Thoroughly rinse the fillet under running water. Pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Cut the fish into serving portions, leaving the skin attached.
- Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the fish until cooked through. (You will not cover the fish with flour or batter, as you typically would while frying fish.)
- Place the rest of the ingredients into a large pot. Bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves and does not burn on the bottom of the pot. Then simmer for about 8 minutes, until the onions are cooked, but still crisp.
- Layer the pieces of fish, sauce, and onions alternately in a ceramic or glass serving dish. Ensure that the last layer of fish is covered with sauce.
- Leave to cool, and then refrigerate. This dish can keep for a week in the refrigerator.
Enjoy savory dishes like this—and more—on our Highlights of South Africa vacation.