One of the most characteristic dishes of the islands of Zanzibar is samaki wa kupaka: red snapper broiled over a jiko charcoal brazier and smothered in a creamy turmeric–coconut milk curry. Shane Mitchell, who researched the region for her book Far Afield, recommends hunting for the dish among the food stalls at the Forodhani Gardens night market in Stone Town. Or make it yourself: The grilled red snapper is marinated with piri piri, African bird’s eye chiles, for bold flavor and extra heat—just don’t marinate too long or the lime will denature the fish’s delicate proteins. Using a grill basket makes grilling a whole fish easy and stress-free. Look for bottled piri piri sauce  or crushed dried chiles at specialty grocers.

May 2019


Credit: Jennifer Causey

Recipe Summary

1 hr 50 mins
45 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Make 4 (3-inch-long) parallel cuts on each side of snapper, cutting down almost to the bone. Place fish in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish; set aside.

  • Combine lime juice, ginger, garlic, chiles, and black pepper in a blender. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds. Coat fish with chile marinade, rubbing into slits and cavity. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.

  • Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F). Combine coconut milk, tamarind concentrate, tomato paste, turmeric, cilantro, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup tamarind sauce for plating.

  • Using paper towels, wipe excess chile marinade from fish. Sprinkle fish with remaining 2 teaspoons salt, rubbing into slits and cavity. Place fish in a metal grilling basket coated with oil. Place grilling basket on grill grate, and grill, covered, basting fish occasionally with remaining tamarind sauce (about 2/3 cup), until flesh flakes with a fork, 18 to 24 minutes, flipping halfway through grill time. Carefully remove fish from grilling basket, and transfer to a platter. Pour reserved 1/4 cup tamarind sauce over fish, and serve with coconut rice.

Suggested Pairing

Lime-inflected Australian Riesling.