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Samaki wa Kupaka


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Samaki wa Kupaka

Samaki wa Kupaka can be loosely translated to mean Coated Fish. Samaki is the Swahili word for Fish and Kupaka means, literally, to apply.

This dish is an East African delicacy that is a staple in every family up and down the East Coast, from Mombasa, to Malindi, Lamu and all the way to Zanzibar! A delicious smoky flavorful grilled fish which is then coated with a rich, thick and creamy tamarind flavored coconut sauce. This dish is particularly enjoyable with Coconut Rice but can also be served with Chapati or Naan and a side of Kachumabari (a tomato, onion, lime & fresh coriander salsa).



•De-scale and gut one whole fish. Wash the fish thoroughly with water mixed with a bit of salt and vinegar or lemon. You can even marinate the fish in this salty vinegar/lemon mix for about half an hour as it reduces the fish smell. Drain and pat the fish dry. Make 2-3 slits on the fleshy part of the fish, on both sides at 2-3 inch intervals. This helps make sure your fish will get cooked properly all the way through and absorb the delicious flavors from the seasoning.

Coconut Sauce


•3 cups coconut milk (you can mix half heavy and half-light)

•4 garlic cloves

•1-2 whole fresh red chillies

•1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

•1 tsp. cumin powder

•1-2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

•2 fresh tomatoes (blended)

•2 tbsp. tamarind paste/liquid (soak tamarind in some warm water, then sieve out the seeds/strings and use the remaining liquid/paste)

•1 lime (juiced)


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Make a paste out of the garlic cloves and the whole red chilies. 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.. 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.

Grill the fish until it is almost done (about 10-12 min. each 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 an oven proof dish that’s a bit deep 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. Keep some coconut sauce for serving with the fish later. Place the dish holding the coconut covered fish in the oven under the grill for 10 minutes so that the coconut sauce sticks to the fish and the flavors 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, lime wedges and some Coconut rice.

Serves 4

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