I Bless the Men Down in Africa…for Creating this Spectacular Dish: Cape Malay Fish Curry

I Bless the Men Down in Africa…for Creating this Spectacular Dish: Cape Malay Fish Curry

So far, a lot of the South African selections that I’ve cooked so far came from my friends’ suggestions, so here’s my addition to the pot.  I remember before I went to Capetown, I expected very light, fresh fare that capitalized on the town’s proximity to the ocean.  I was wrong. What I found were very meaty dishes, or seafood ones that were much heavier than the broth-y soups I’ve made so far (the gumbo…the bouillabaise)  Not that it all wasn’t tasty, because oh-was it!  I was just surprised.  Anyway, I got over it, and in the process fell in love with the local fish curried stew, so today I share that with you:  Cape Malay Fish Curry.

When I found the recipe I used today, it wasn’t at all how I remembered it. This has the trademark sweet/savory mix of the bobotie and I remembered something more along the lines of a Thai coconut curry.  No matter, I was quite satisfied with the  switch. I bet coconut milk would be pretty tasty in this anyway. (Hmmm. Maybe next time I’ll make that addition and it’s definitely going to be made again…).  Nevertheless, the tiny bit of yogurt made this a lot richer than the interesting suggested to me and was a great Lenten alternative to a peanut butter sandwich for lunch (not that there’s anything wrong with a PB&J.  I love me some PB&J).

Serves 3-5


1-1 1/2 pounds skinned and boned white fish ( I used a combo of tilapia and swai), cut into chunks

Oil, for the pan

2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and crushed

1/2 TB cape malay curry powder**

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1/2 cinamon stick

2 cloves

1 bay leaf

1 carrot, grated

1/2 cup dried apricots, reconstituted in warm water

1 banana, sliced

1/2 can diced tomatoes (about 2 cup)

3 TB wine vinegar

1- 2 cups stock, depending on how liquid-y you want it

1 1/2 TB apricot jam

2 TB plain yogurt

**A note about the curry. Curry powder usually varies depending on the brand and origin and the kind you choose and can add a very different taste to a dish.  Cape Malay curry powder distinguishes itself not from being hot like an Indian curry, but rather from combining, as I stated above, the sweetness of fruits and spices like cinnamon and savory flavors of turmeric and coriander.  I went to my spice mecca The Spice House (if you live in Chicago, you must go) in search of some Cape Malay and was a bit disappointed to find they didn’t have it. What I DID find was something called Maharajah Style curry powder, which seemed to fit the bill, containing turmeric, ginger, cumin, cardamom, cloves, saffron, nutmeg and fennel, among others.  It worked, so if you have the option to seek out some more specialized curry powder, look for one that is sweet and mild rather than hot.**


1.  Heat some oil in a stock pot and cook the onions and garlic until about half-cooked and soft.  Add the ginger and spices and finished cooking the onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat.

2.  Add the vinegar and stock, plus all the other remaining ingredients (except the fish, jam and yogurt). Cover and gently simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, approximately 45 minutes.

3.  Add the fish and simmer until the fish is cooked.  Stir in the apricot jam and the yogurt just before serving.

4.  Serve this curry with yellow rice.


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