Chepala Pulusu–Andhra Fish Curry

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Chepala Pulusu

This is for all my Andhra friends out there…Chepala Pulusu (Chepala-Fish, Pulusu-a tangy gravy). This dish is similar to the Tamil Meen Kolumbu.

The use of red chili and tamarind makes this curry very spicy and tangy. In my home state of Kerala we do not use the type of  tamarind used in this dish for fish curries—we use a special sour fruit–kokum ( a fruit from the tree Garcinia indica, part of the mangosteen family) .

_indica Garcinia indica

_indica Garcinia indica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this dish the addition of sambar tamarind yields a more thick and dark colored gravy.

Chepala Pulusu

INGREDIENTS:

1-2 lbs-Pomfret, Porgy, king fish, Blue fish, etc…cleaned and sliced into steaks or chunks

Marinade for fish: 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp ginger garlic paste, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt

1 large onion + 2 green chilies- pureed

1/2 onion, sliced

Few sprigs of curry leaves

1 lg tomato–pureed

3-4  tbs oil

1/2 tsp Mustard seeds

1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds

1/4 tsp cumin seeds

2-3 tsp Red chili powder (or to taste)

1/2 tsp paprika

2 tsp coriander pdr

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp garam masala

1tbs unsweetened coconut flakes

1 heaping tbs of tamarind block/paste dissolved in 4 tbs water and strained

Chopped cilantro for garnish

METHOD:

Step1:   Take the cleaned fish and add marinade ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hr.Heat oil 1-2 tsp oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the fish until light brown. Remove from oil and keep aside.

Step 2:  In a frying pan add remaining oil and add mustard seeds and fry til popped, add cumin and fenugreek seeds. Add sliced onions and curry leaves and fry until brown. Add ginger-garlic paste. then pureed onions. Fry until lt brown. Add all masala powder and sauté for a few minutes (until raw smell is gone). Add pureed tomatoes and allow to cook for 5 mts. Add more water if gravy is getting too thick. Oil should start separating. To this add tamarind paste and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add more water as needed to get a semi thick gravy. Add coconut flakes. Now drop in the fried fish and allow to cook for another 5 mts.

Transfer to a dish and garnish with chopped cilantro. Best served with white rice. Serves 4-6.

Chepala Pulusu

Sambar- Spicy South Indian Lentils

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I make sambar at least once a week. It is a spicy, tangy lentil dish packed with protein and flavor. Usually an accompaniment with plain rice, idli, dosai or  vada. A true south Indian meal is rarely complete without it. It always tastes better the next day. I cook the dhal in my rice cooker– it has a soup setting so no fuss. But you can cook the dhal on the stove. This is a recipe for a weekday sambar, nothing fancy, easy to prepare.

Sambar

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 cup Toor dhal, rinsed

1 tsp turmeric

3-4  cups water

2 cups mixed chopped vegetables- Zucchini, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans, , etc (can also use froz vegetables)

1 cup frozen okra

1 cup chopped sliced cherry or grape tomatoes

2-3  tbs sambar masala (found at any Indian grocery store, I like Periyar or Eastern brand, you may add more or less according to how spicy you want it)

1-2  tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in a 1/4 cup water and strained

1 tsp asafetida (Hing or chayyam)

Salt to taste

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Seasoning: 1 tsp oil, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (uluva), 2-3 red chilies, 1 small onion-sliced,

Method:

Wash the toor dhal well and place in a rice cooker with 3 cups water and 1 tsp turmeric and cook on medium heat until well cooked and dhal is falling apart. You can also use a pressure cooker as well for 3 whistles or use a pot on the stove. Mash up the cooked dhal– I usually use my immersion mixer and give it a few twirls to make it more smooth but some prefer to keep it a little chunky.

Place all the vegetables, except the okra and the tomatoes– in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp salt and a pinch of turmeric. Microwave for 5-7 mts or until cooked. With a slotted spoon transfer the vegetables to the cooked dhal. (Reserve the water to use for thinning out the sambar if too thick.)

Add sambar powder and let boil for a few minutes. Turn down heat, add the asafetida and the tamarind paste water. Do not let boil after adding tamarind or it will become frothy.

If the sambar is too thick, add some of reserved water. Add salt to taste. It will thicken some as it cools. Add frozen okra, cover and remove from stove. The frozen okra will cook quickly and won’t get slimy this way.. If using fresh okra, add and let the sambar simmer for a few minutes before turning it off.

Season Heat oil in a small frying pan, add mustard seeds, allow to splutter. Add fenugreek seeds, red chilies and sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Allow to brown. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Add this seasoning to the sambar and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves