Whole tilapia fish stew

Whole Tilapia Fish Stew

Tilapia is a very popular fish in Kenya because of its wide availability and affordability. It’s literally what almost every fish monger sells, be it on the streets or the high end shops and supermarkets. There are many ways of preparing tilapia. You can cook a stew, bake it in the oven, as fillet curry and so much more. Your imagination will be your limitation here.

So, today I want to share with you one of the ways that I prepare my whole tilapia as a stew. I cook it in such a way that I avoid turning it in the sufuria once I add it in the stew because it is very delicate and can break easily.

I love having my tilapia this way because it ensures that it does not turn out very dry. Most of us in Kenya know that the tilapia that is deep fried on the streets is normally so dry that no amount of stewing or steaming it can redeem it. I still remember the first time I instructed the lady who sells fish near my place that I wanted my tilapia deep fried for 3 minutes per side. Her reaction was priceless!! She was like, hai mama, hii samaki itakuwa mbichi na haitakuwa tamu. (Lady, the tilapia will be raw and won’t taste nice either)


  • 2 Tilapias
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1/2 hoho (bell pepper)
  • Yellow hoho
  • Red hoho
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium sized red onions thinly sliced
  • 3 spring onions stalks
  • 3 green chillies
  • bunch of dhania (coriander)
  • 100g tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 2″ ginger finely minced
  • Enough all purpose wheat flour to coat two tilapias
  • Enough vegetable oil to shallow fry both tilapias
  • 1 Tbs of garam masala or curry powder
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbs honey


  1. Dust the tilapia on both sides lightly with the wheat flour and shake off any excess.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a sufuria until it begins to shimmer and then sear the tilapia on both sides till they develop a nice golden brown crust.
  3. In the same oil add your onions and fry till they turn translucent and then add the ginger and garlic. Cook for just a minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook for about a minute to get rid of the raw taste.
  5. Slit the green chillies lengthwise and add them to the sufuria. You can cut them up into small pieces if you want to have more heat.
  6. Add the garam masala at this point and cook off the entire mixture until the oil separates from the tomato paste.
  7. Finely chop the tomatoes and then add them to the sufuria together with enough salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for a few minutes for the tomatoes to soften and break down.
  8. Add enough water to make a thick stew and then cover and bring to a gentle simmer.
  9. Taste for seasoning and if too tart add honey to cut through the tartness.
  10. Scoop out half the stew before placing the tilapia in the sufuria.
  11. Pour the stew that you scooped out over the top of the tilapia and make sure to spread it evenly to cover the fish.
  12. Cover and simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes for the tilapia to fully cook and for the stew to thicken further.
  13. Sprinkle all the hohos and spring onions on top of the tilapia and cover to simmer for a few minutes until just softened but still crunchy.
  14. Finally, add the dhania and turn off the heat.
  15. Serve and garnish with more coloured hohos and lemon wedges.


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