Coastal cuisine in India varies every few hundred miles: a fish curry in Konkan is nothing like a fish curry in Kerala, which is nothing like a fish curry in Andhra Pradesh! Menus in Indian restaurants, even in India, rarely do justice to this amazing diversity of coastal cuisine. In Andhra Pradesh, there are distinct cuisines along different parts of the coast. Common ingredients are tamarind, coconut and chilli but the way they are put together gives the dish its unique taste.
Here I bring you a fish curry that is popular in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, which is known for its fiery curries. This dish is hot but tangy and light. It is best to cook it a day in advance so that the flavours soak in well.
I prefer a firm fleshed fish for Chepala Pulusu. Halibut is perfect for the job and River Cobbler will do. If you have an Asian shop nearby, you could try Kingfish or Seer (also known as Surmai).
Cooking time: 1 hour
You will need:
- 4 River Cobbler fillets
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onions ground to a paste
- 2 tsp fresh garlic-ginger paste (use a 50:50 ratio)
- 4 hot green finger chillies slit lengthways
- 2 large ripe tomatoes chopped
- 2 tsp tamarind extract
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut powder
- 1 tsp garam masala (use my Special Garam Masala for best results)
- Green coriander to garnish
Sprinkle the turmeric, chilli powder and salt on the fish. Massage it in to the fish pieces to coat them evenly. Set aside. Lightly dry roast the fenugreek and poppy seeds on a hot frying pan until they change colour and smell toasted. Remove these from the frying pan into a bowl and quickly dry roast the desiccated coconut in the same hot pan for a few seconds until it goes golden but taking care not to let it burn. Grind these three roasted ingredients into a powder.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the ground onion and cook this on low heat for about 15 minutes occasionally sprinkling water to prevent burning. Cook until the very sharp smell of raw onion has gone and the onions have turned golden. Now add the garlic and ginger paste and repeat this process until the acrid smell of garlic has gone. Now add the tomatoes and green chillies and simmer for a further five minutes. Add the fish, tamarind extract, garam masala and powdered seeds and coconut mixture. Add enough water to cover the pieces. Simmer until the fish is cooked through. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with coriander. The dish is ready to serve but as I said in the introduction, it tastes better if you cook it a day before eating. Serve with boiled rice.