Samaki wa Kupaka (Grilled Fish in Coconut Sauce)

Servings : Serves 4

This dish is a Coastal E/African delicacy that is a loved by almost every family up and down the East Coast, from Mombasa, to Malindi, Lamu and all the way to Zanzibar! A delicious smoky flavourful grilled fish which is then coated with a rich, thick and creamy tamarind-flavoured coconut sauce.This dish is particularly enjoyable with Coconut Rice but can also be had with Mandazi, or Naan and maybe a side of spinach. Once you try this dish, it will definitely count as one of your favourite exotic seafood meals!! YUM!!

Ingredients for Fish

  • 1 whole fish, marinated and grilled using my Grilled Fish recipe - recipe link in instructions below

Ingredients for Coconut Sauce

  • 3 cups coconut milk (you can mix half heavy and half light)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 whole fresh red chillies
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder or cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1-2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste/puree
  • 2 tbsp. tamarind sauce/paste (soak tamarind in some warm water, then sieve out the seeds/strings and use the liquid)
  • 1-2 tsp. lemon juice


Marinate the fish using THIS recipe.

Then prepare the Coconut Sauce

Make a paste out of the garlic cloves and the whole red chillies. Then put all the ingredients (except for the lemon juice) in a pan and stir together. Gently simmer on LOW heat whilst stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Make sure not to stop stirring as that will cause the coconut milk to curdle and we want a smooth sauce. The trick is to maintain the heat on low and to stir continuously. When it is about done and thickened, add in the lemon juice and stir. Give it a taste and adjust. The sauce will mellow out after it sits for a while, so do not worry if it feels slightly tangy. Just make sure the salt and other spices taste to your liking. Take care not to over salt as the grilled fish will also have some salt. When done, turn off the heat and keep stirring for a few more minutes until the coconut sauce begins to cool down. Then set aside.

You can now grill the fish as per my grilled fish recipe until it is ALMOST done (about 10-12 minutes per side).

If you are grilling on a BBQ grill, when the fish is about done, start brushing the coconut sauce over the fish on both sides as it grills, turning it very gently or using a fish basket to flip it.

If you are grilling in the oven, when the fish is almost ready, take a 9×13 oven proof dish and put a few tbsp of the coconut sauce in it. Then place your grilled fish on the sauce, and pour some more coconut sauce all over it, making sure it covers every part of the fish. Reserve some sauce for serving with the fish later. Place the dish holding the coconut covered fish in the oven under the broiler/grill for 10 minutes so that the coconut sauce sticks to the fish and the flavours are infused. You can then gently turn the fish over and baste it with some more coconut sauce and put it back under the grill for another 5 or 10 minutes.

Once done, smoke the fish for 3-5 minutes by lighting a small piece of coal and dripping a bit of oil on it to release some smoke that will get infused into the fish. This will give the dish an authentic BBQ aroma.

Serve with the remaining Coconut Sauce, lemon wedges and some Coconut Rice.

Enjoy! 🙂

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