Recipes

Swahili Grilled Fish with Coconut-Tamarind Sauce (Samaki wa Kupaka)

Serves 4

| Prep Time: 25 mins

| Cook Time: 30 mins

| Total Time: 55 mins

You may need: Zanzibar Zest

Discover The Recipe

Swahili cuisine can be described as enticing and comforting with a perfect balance of fresh ingredients and warming spices. Our recipe for Swahili Grilled Fish with Coconut-Tamarind Sauce is just that. “Samaki wa Kupaka” as it’s affectionately called is a popular and bold-flavored Kenyan delight that consists of marinated grilled fish, topped with a spicy and slightly tangy coconut sauce. Although Swahili often refers to the language of East Africa, it also references their culture and food. With Arab, Portuguese and Indian influences, Swahili cuisine is diverse and typically highlights the vibrant spices, fresh chilis and aromatics that were traded for centuries. 

Traditionally, “Samaki wa Kupaka” is made using whole fish that is grilled over hot charcoal. Our recipe uses Salmon and features our exotic Zanzibar Zest spice blend, inspired by aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom. Our Chefs use this proprietary blend in the marinade along with fresh ginger, lime juice and bird’s eye chili – a thin, red hot pepper with fruity undertones that is common in East African cuisine. The spice blend also plays an integral part in the savory coconut-tamarind sauce used to baste the fish during the final cooking stage and adds a pleasant smoky touch. Try this Swahili Grilled Fish with Coconut-Tamarind sauce along with our Plantains in Coconut Milk recipe for an impressive taste of East Africa.

Ingredients

  • 4 (3oz) Salmon filets (tilapia or snapper filets are fine as well)

  • Fish Marinade 

  • 2 Tbsp oil (coconut oil or olive oil is best)

  • ½ lime (juiced, about 1 Tbsp)

  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)

  • ½ inch piece of ginger (minced)

  • 1 bird’s eye chili (minced)

  • 1.5 tsp Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest

  •  1 tsp salt 

  • Coconut-Tamarind Sauce 

  • 1 Tbsp oil (coconut oil or olive oil is best)

  • 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)

  • 1 Bird’s Eye chili (finely minced)

  • 1.5 tsp Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest

  • 1 cup coconut milk (full fat)

  • ¼ cup Tamarind concentrate (alternatively use 2 Tbsp lime juice)

  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)

  • Lime slices (for garnish)

  •  To serve: cooked white rice or coconut rice 

Notes

Bird’s eye chilis add a fruity and spicy kick to any dish. In this recipe it pairs well with the tart tamarind while the coconut milk helps to make the heat manageable. Make sure that you are using full fat coconut milk since this will render a creamier sauce. 

Take care not to overcook the fish as it will become dry and rubbery. The fish is finished cooking when the meat is opaque and the juices run clear. You will also notice that the skin of the fish pulls away from the meat easily. 

Spoon as much sauce as you desire over the fish during cooking. Save any remaining sauce as a dipping sauce. 

Instructions

Begin with the fish marinade by adding the oil, lime juice, garlic, ginger, bird’s eye chili, Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest and salt to a blender and process into a paste. Lay the fish filets onto a large plate, cover with the marinade and massage well. Cover the seasoned filets with aluminum foil or cling wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes.  

Prepare the coconut-tamarind sauce by heating the oil in a saucepan over Medium heat. Add the garlic, bird’s eye chili and Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest and sauté for one minute until fragrant. Reduce the heat to Med-Low and slowly pour in the coconut milk and tamarind concentrate then stir to combine. Allow the sauce to simmer over Med-Low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally so that it does not burn. Turn off the heat, season with salt and set aside. 

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature while you preheat the grill, alternatively you can use a broiler. Grease the grill grates with a bit of oil and grill the fish filets skin side up for 7 minutes then gently flip and grill for an additional 5 minutes. If broiling, arrange the oven rack 4 inches away from the heat source, place the fish on a baking tray skin side down and broil for 8 minutes. 

After the initial cooking time is up, spoon or brush some of the coconut-tamarind sauce onto the fish (not the skin) and grill for an additional 3 minutes or broil for an additional 5-6 minutes. Remove the fish, garnish with lime slices and serve with cooked white rice or coconut rice. 

Alternatives & Substitutions

  • Samaki wa Kupaka is a delightfully fragrant entrée that will surely impress your guests. You can use any fish filet or even whole fish of your choice. If you love fish, try our recipes for Zanzibar Fish with Spiced Cornbread, and Fish Coconut Curry

  • Tamarind concentrate plays an integral part in this dish and can be found at your local Asian or Caribbean market. However, you can substitute it with 2 Tbsp of lime juice (approx. 1 large lime). 

  • Bird’s eye chili adds a nice spicy element to this dish however you can replace it with cayenne pepper or omit it all together if you are sensitive to heat. 

  • If you prefer a plant-based version of this recipe, try swapping out the fish for a block of extra firm tofu or portobello mushroom caps. Both of these plant-based substitutes are meaty and will hold up well during the marinating and grilling process. 

  • Our Zanzibar Zest blend is packed with warming spices that you can add to just about anything. You can use it in desserts like our Plantains in Coconut Milk, savory stewed greens or even in your morning coffee like in our Zanzibar Spiced Coffee recipe. 

  • Make it a full meal and pair this recipe with our Zanzibar Pilau Rice recipe found on our website.  

  • If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try our recipe for Malva Pudding – a sweet and subtly tart dessert reminiscent of bread pudding.  

  • Be sure to leave comments and feedback on your meals and experiments in the comments for others to read.

  • Post pictures of your masterpiece meal on social media and tag us. We repost!

Swahili Grilled Fish with Coconut-Tamarind Sauce (Samaki wa Kupaka)

Serves

4

Prep Time

25 mins

Cook Time

30 mins

Total Time

55 mins

Piquant Post spice you’ll need: Zanzibar Zest

Ingredients

  • 4 (3oz) Salmon filets (tilapia or snapper filets are fine as well)

  • Fish Marinade 

  • 2 Tbsp oil (coconut oil or olive oil is best)

  • ½ lime (juiced, about 1 Tbsp)

  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)

  • ½ inch piece of ginger (minced)

  • 1 bird’s eye chili (minced)

  • 1.5 tsp Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest

  •  1 tsp salt 

  • Coconut-Tamarind Sauce 

  • 1 Tbsp oil (coconut oil or olive oil is best)

  • 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)

  • 1 Bird’s Eye chili (finely minced)

  • 1.5 tsp Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest

  • 1 cup coconut milk (full fat)

  • ¼ cup Tamarind concentrate (alternatively use 2 Tbsp lime juice)

  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)

  • Lime slices (for garnish)

  •  To serve: cooked white rice or coconut rice 

Instructions

  1. Begin with the fish marinade by adding the oil, lime juice, garlic, ginger, bird’s eye chili, Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest and salt to a blender and process into a paste. Lay the fish filets onto a large plate, cover with the marinade and massage well. Cover the seasoned filets with aluminum foil or cling wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes.  

  2. Prepare the coconut-tamarind sauce by heating the oil in a saucepan over Medium heat. Add the garlic, bird’s eye chili and Piquant Post Zanzibar Zest and sauté for one minute until fragrant. Reduce the heat to Med-Low and slowly pour in the coconut milk and tamarind concentrate then stir to combine. Allow the sauce to simmer over Med-Low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally so that it does not burn. Turn off the heat, season with salt and set aside. 

  3. Remove the fish from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature while you preheat the grill, alternatively you can use a broiler. Grease the grill grates with a bit of oil and grill the fish filets skin side up for 7 minutes then gently flip and grill for an additional 5 minutes. If broiling, arrange the oven rack 4 inches away from the heat source, place the fish on a baking tray skin side down and broil for 8 minutes. 

  4. After the initial cooking time is up, spoon or brush some of the coconut-tamarind sauce onto the fish (not the skin) and grill for an additional 3 minutes or broil for an additional 5-6 minutes. Remove the fish, garnish with lime slices and serve with cooked white rice or coconut rice. 

Notes

  • Bird’s eye chilis add a fruity and spicy kick to any dish. In this recipe it pairs well with the tart tamarind while the coconut milk helps to make the heat manageable. Make sure that you are using full fat coconut milk since this will render a creamier sauce. 

  • Take care not to overcook the fish as it will become dry and rubbery. The fish is finished cooking when the meat is opaque and the juices run clear. You will also notice that the skin of the fish pulls away from the meat easily. 

  • Spoon as much sauce as you desire over the fish during cooking. Save any remaining sauce as a dipping sauce. 

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