Chepala pulusu (Tamarind fish curry)

I was all set to try out a new Tamarind fish curry at the recent Embassy of India in Sri Lanka event. I had first heard about chepala pulusu (Tamarind fish curry) when I was in New Delhi. A professional chef in one of the well-known hotels had introduced it to me.

Tamarind, or “dal” in Malayalam, is a sour fruit that has a taste similar to lemon. Its seeds are used as a spice in Indian cuisine. Tamarind is a common ingredient in curries and other spicy dishes. The tamarind fruit itself has a sour taste. It is said that the taste is similar to lemon and is added to many curries, pickles, and other side dishes. It is also used as a souring agent in many other recipes, for example, to make pickles and marinades. The sour taste of tamarind is said to only be present from the outer skin of the fruit. So, the sour taste of tamarind has to be extracted from the

Tamarind fish is a popular fish curry recipe mainly from Kerala. This dish is typically prepared with a yellowish tamarind extract which is very acidic and tangy in taste. If you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to use a neutralizing agent like salt, oil or yogurt while cooking the fish. The unique flavour of tamarind is a perfect partner for the fish.

The renowned traditional Andhra fish curry, chepala pulusu (tamarind fish curry), is extremely popular and can be found on the menu of almost every restaurant in Andhra Pradesh. The fish is prepared in a tart sauce that becomes better with age. Though the ingredients are the same, my relatives and friends from Andhra Vizag (Vishakhapatnam), Anantapur, Kurnool, Hindupur, Kadappa, Guntakal, Hyderabad, and other locations make this curry differently at home. Some make it with only onion and spices, while others add tomato paste or chopped tomatoes; the primary flavor comes from the fresh fish and the tanginess of the tamarind.

When you utilize fish like cutla (carp), rohu, or any other fish like catla, the curry leaves a lot of fat or oil due to the fatness of the fish, which helps the curry taste better. Apart from the fish head, the soft and fatty gut of the carp or rohu is my particular favorite. The distinction between freshwater and seawater fish may be seen. Because my ancestors are from Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), every fish dish I make must be prepared using pure water from a lake or river. The tamarind’s sourness complements the fish well. We also make mango fish curry, but in a different way. We have excellent fresh water fish in Anantapur, which I usually love. The fish size utilized is usually large or medium, depending on whether the entire fish is 2 kilogram or 3 kg, therefore the pieces cut will also be large or medium.

This fish stew is served with plain rice and ragi ka mudda (ragi sankati), a rice ball prepared with ragi powder.

Freshwater fish such as cutla (carp), rohu, and other freshwater fish are allowed. Any sea fish, such as vanjaram (king fish), sea bass, and so on, may be used.

Carp fish has a lot of advantages (cutla or rohu)

  • The omega-3 fatty acid level in carp fish is high.
  • Carp Fish are high-protein, low-fat sources of protein.
  • Fish protein is of excellent quality, with enough of necessary amino acids and is easily digested by individuals of all ages.

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Time to cook: 40 minutes

Andhra Pradesh cuisine

2 to 3 people

Spiciness: Very spicy


  • 400-500 gms of fish
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 3 dried chilies
  • 20 curry leaves
  • 2 medium onions (200 g)
  • 2 or 150 gms tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp ginger and garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Medium lemon size tamarind (dry)
  • 4 slit green chillies
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves (chopped)
  • a pinch of salt (to taste)


  • I used 1 inch thick, medium-sized fish chunks, but you could also use fillet.
  • Prepare the onions and tomatoes by chopping them and keeping them ready.
  • Soak the dried tamarind for a few minutes in 1/2 cup warm water. Squeeze the tamarind in warm water to extract the tamarind water. Remove the tamarind water from the pot and set it aside. To extract the remaining tamarind extract, add another 1/2 cup of water. Remove the strainer and set it aside. For the tamarind water, I used 1 cup of water. If using tamarind paste (thick, double-concentrated, purchased from a store), just add water according to the curry’s needs. Use the tamarind to get the desired level of sourness.
  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, methi seeds, dried chilies, and curry leaves, spluttering for a few seconds.
  • On medium heat, add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent. Fry for 1 minute with the ginger-garlic paste.
  • Toss in the turmeric, cumin, and red chili powder, as well as the diced tomatoes. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat, or until the tomatoes are tender.
  • 1 cup water, brought to a boil for 5 to 8 minutes
  • Bring 1 cup of tamarind extract and 1 cup of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Place the fish pieces in the vessel with care, along with the green chili and coriander leaves. Instead of mixing with a spoon, give the container a good shake. So that the fish pieces don’t get shattered.
  • Close the cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the fish curry is done, rotating the pot and shaking it gently in between. Cook until the curry has reached the desired consistency and the rawness of the tamarind has vanished.
  • Reduce the heat to low, add the salt, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow for the sauce to thicken and the oil to separate or leave.
  • The fish curry tastes better when cooked in the afternoon and served at supper.
  • Re-garnish with chopped coriander leaves after adjusting the salt.
  • With simple rice, roti (chapathi), or ragi sankati/ragi sangati, serve this wonderful Andhra chepala pulusu (fish curry).


  • Any freshwater or marine fish, such as vangaram (king fish) or sea bass, may be used.
  • Do not overstir with a spoon; fish pieces may shatter. Instead, hold the vessel and spin it clockwise or anticlockwise; the fish pieces will not break.
  • After adding the tamarind water, adjust the amount of water as needed.
  • You may adjust the amount of chilli powder and green chilies to your preference.
  • If using a thick double concentrated tamarind paste (1 1/2 tsp to 2 tsp), adjust the amount of water to the curry’s needs (3 cups).
  • If desired, a pinch of roasted methi seeds powder may be added to the curry.
  • You may add the special spice powder (only 1 tsp when boiling the stew, like I did with the Rayalaseema fish curry) if you wish.


Pulusu is a South Indian fish curry that is believed to be a health tonic. It is one of the most popular curries and hence it is a staple food, traditionally served with rice. Pulusu is traditionally cooked with tamarind or tangy fruit, which is believed to have cleansing and purifying properties.. Read more about chepala pulusu in english and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which fish is used in Nellore Chepala Pulusu?

The fish used in Nellore Chepala Pulusu is the Indian Mackerel.

Which fish is best for Pulusu?

The best fish for Pulusu is the goldfish.

How long can I keep fish curry?

You should be able to keep the curry for up to two days in the fridge.

Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.