Hazel McBride shares the fragrant and spicy world of South African food in her recipe for Cape Malay fish curry. While you can substitute the rock ling or hake with any firm white-fleshed fish fillets, Hazel cautions against adding ginger as her mother says "it breaks the fish".






Skill level

Average: 3.5 (80 votes)


  • 600 g rock ling, hake or other firm white fish fillets, skin removed
  • salt, to season, plus 1 tsp, approximately, extra
  • pepper, to season
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) cooking oil
  • pinch of fennel seeds
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red birdseye chilli, halved lengthways
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp hot masala, or to taste
  • 1 tsp medium masala
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, grated
  • 1 tsp tamarind pulp, mixed with 60 ml (¼ cup) boiling water and strained
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar, or to taste
  • 10 fresh curry leaves, bruised
  • ½ cup chopped coriander leaves
  • yellow rice, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Season the fish with salt and pepper and cut into large bite-size pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok or wide saucepan over high heat.  Add the fennel and cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the onion and cook for 5–6 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining spices and 2–3 tbsp water to prevent spices from burning and sticking to pan. Cook for 1–2 minutes.

Add the tomato and tamarind water, reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the sugar and extra salt, adjusting each to ensure a balance of sweet and sour. Stir in the curry leaves and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened. 
Place the fish in the wok and gently spoon over the sauce to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium–low and simmer for 8 minutes, or until fish is just cooked through. Just before serving, top with chopped coriander and serve on a bed of yellow rice.
• The tomato mixture must have the correct taste and consistency before adding the fish.
• If you like a thick gravy, boil and mash a small potato before adding the fish.  Add more salt if necessary.
• Don’t be tempted to add more water as the fish has its own moisture.
• It’s important not to stir the curry or the fish will break up.
• If the sauce is too watery, remove the lid and simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens slightly.
Recipe from Jislaaik It’s Lekker.