Chepala pulusu!

I don’t know any other dish that evokes images of coastal Andhra (the state I come from in India) more than chepala pulusu.  Chepa means fish and pulusu means juice, usually extracted, in Telugu so chepala pulusu is a dish made with fish cooked in tamarind juice.  There may be slight variations to the recipe but the basic ingredients are fish and tamarind juice.  I normally use tilapia fillets but this can be made with cat fish fillets or bone-in fish like hilsa or rohu.  The recipe that I tried today is from an old magazine…with a couple changes.



  • Tilapia fish fillets – 1.5 lbs
  • Tamarind – about size of lemon or tamarind paste
  • Onion – 1
  • Green chillies – 6
  • Curry leaves – 15
  • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Poppy seeds – 2 tsp
  • Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt to taste


  1. Wash fish and cut into 3 inch pieces
  2. Grind coriander, poppy and cumin into a paste.  Or you can use coriander powder, cumin powder and poppy seed powder (since poppy seeds are hard to grind in small quantities I usually dry roast a cup of poppy seeds and grind them and store in an airtight container in the freezer)
  3. Soak tamarind in water and extract the juice
  4. Heat oil and add mustard seeds.  When the seeds splatter add diced onions, curry leaves and slit green chillies; cook for 5 minutes or until onions brown
  5. Add ginger garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes away
  6. Add coriander, poppy seeds and cumin seeds paste or powders if you are using powders; saute for a few seconds
  7. Add the fish pieces – lay them flat around the pan; cook for a minute and gently turn them over and cook for another minute
  8. Add tamarind juice and about a cup of water.  Add turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt.  You can adjust the consistency of the gravy by adding more or less water
  9. Set the flame to medium-low and let the fish simmer in tamarind juice for about 15-20 minutes
  10. Garnish with coriander leaves.  Serve it with rice

It is always said that fish pulusu should never be eaten off the stove – it tastes best the day after.  If you can’t wait then go ahead and eat it right off the stove…there is no law against it!


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