South Africa: Fish Cakes in Curry Sauce

(Adapted from recipe by Orit Cohen, originally appeared on JSOnline, March 23, 2010)

Early Dutch and Malay settlers had a profound influence on the cuisine of South Africa. The use of curries, sauces that are all at once spicy, sweet, and savory, are used to flavor vegetables, fish, and meat. This particular recipe, used as a starter for the Passover seder, is an absolutely luscious substitute for gefilte fish, and will probably be a lot more popular with the younger set.



Fish Cakes:

1 large onion, chopped

2 pounds white fish, such as cod, halibut, or tilapia

1 large carrot, chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying (divided)

¼ cup matzah meal

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp. coarse kosher salt, or more to taste

1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, or more to taste


Curry sauce:

1 onion, sliced

2 teaspoons oil

2 cups water

2 teaspoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 ½- 3 tablespoons curry powder, to taste

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste (optional)

1 can (15.2 ounces) apricots, drained and chopped



Fish Cakes: 

Heat 1 tsp. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until golden brown. Grind, or mince together in a food processor, fish, cooked onions, and chopped raw carrots. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in beaten eggs, ¼ cup oil, matzah meal, cinnamon and seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until firm, 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, make curry sauce.

Curry Sauce:

In skillet, sauté onion slices in oil over medium-high heat until caramelized. 10-15 minutes. Add water, vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper (if using) and apricots. Cook until well blended and heated through. (Curry sauce may be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Reheat in a pan over medium heat before using.) 

To fry fish cakes: 

Form fish into small patties, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Pour oil in saucepan to about ¼- inch up side of the pan and heat until a drop of water sizzles. Fry fish patties in oil, in 2 to 3 batches, turning them once to brown on both sides. Transfer patties to a platter using a slotted spoon. Allow balls to cool for 5 minutes. Spoon warm curry sauce over cakes and serve.

Makes 12-16 cakes, or 6-8 servings.