Cape Malay Pickled Fish

Down here in the Cape you always know Easter is just around the corner when a seasonal preoccupation takes hold of our beloved city; yes, I’m talking about our pickled fish obsession.

Like tinsel before Christmas, it seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Overnight supermarkets load tables with tubs of this sweet & sour delight, whole yellowtail is suddenly on the Specials board of your local fishmonger and, most tellingly, internet and food blog searches for pickled fish recipes sky rocket. All pickled portents that tell us one thing – Easter is upon us.

Before its association with Easter, pickled fish was simply a tasty way for the Cape Malay community to make the most of an abundance of fish during the summer months by preserving the fish – allowing them to keep the fish for an extended period of time. This classic Cape Malay dish is the perfect example of the heavy influence of Malaysian and Indonesian culture on Cape cuisine as the pickling liquid is more akin to a sweet and sour curry than any other methods of pickling fish.  Traditionally snoek and yellowtail were the favoured catch as their dense flesh withstands the pickling process especially well, but flaker fish such as cob and hake can also be used although I prefer using yellowtail.

Of course there is also the small matter of what you should serve your pickled fish with.

The most common way is to simply have it with buttered white bread, but for those of you with a sense of adventure you can always try it with another Easter treat – hot cross buns. I know this might sound like a crazy and unappealing combination, but there really is method in this Easter mash-up madness. Call it an Easter miracle, but for some reason it really does taste amazingly good!

Pickled fish and hot cross buns; yep, welcome to the true taste of the Cape.

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Keralan Fish Molee

The concept of a fish curry seems to freak people out. So much so, the mere suggestion of it usually elicits looks of suspicion and a chorus of “ugh!” and “ewww!“. Such reactions have always confounded me because fish curry is, in a word, delicious. Over the years I have tried to introduce my sceptical dinner guests to the delights of fish curry and I have found the most success with molee.

Keralan Fish MoleeA speciality of Kerala in Southern India molee is, strictly speaking a fish stew, but with its rich and fragrant coconut sauce it can still be considered a curry. Simple to make and requiring very few ingredients, molee is surprisingly complex in flavour and makes a great addition to any Indian meal.

Aside from the fish, the key ingredient to molee are curry leaves. The dish benefits immensely from fresh curry leaves, but if you can’t find these then dried leaves will do at a pinch. Whenever I manage to find fresh curry leaves I always make sure I freeze some, as these will still be superior to dried.

Still not convinced about fish curry? Give molee a go and trust me, before you know it you’ll be tucking into some Fish Head Curry!

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