Pulasa Pulusu: Monsoon Season’s Favourite Fish Curry from the Godavari

During the monsoon season, the fishermen folk from the basins of Godavari and some of its tributaries expectantly await their prize catch. Pulasa, which is perhaps the costliest fish available in that belt, enters these rivers from the sea to lay their eggs in sweet water. In these areas, the fish sells at a princely price of few thousand rupees per kg during this time, being lapped up by rich and wealthy to enjoy Pulasa Pulusu, a rich gravy dish normally eaten with rice. In fact in the coastal areas, there is a Telugu saying “Pustelu ammi ayina Pulasa tinocchu” which means that it is worth even selling your mangal sutras to have Pulasa fish.

The fish species are not just popular in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, Tenualosa Ilisa or Hilsa is known as Ilish in Bengal and is the national fish of Bangladesh. During the monsoons, the Bengali speaking population in that part of the country literally goes crazy over the dish, preparing umpteen number of variations using different recipes. Festivals of Hilsa preparation is organized in Bengali restaurants all over the world. Also, the entire coastal belt from Burma to Sindh in Pakistan fancy this fish and have their own recipes for the same. However, it is widely acknowledged that the Pulasa caught from specific areas of Godavari during the season is one of the tastiest variants of the fish. 

                                                           Pulasa Pulusu                           Pic Courtesy: Kiran Bonthu

The most popular recipe for Pulasa fish in Andhra Pradesh is Pulasa Pulusu, spicy gravy with okra, tamarind, and green chillies. Proper procurement of the fish is very important, as a good quality fish can hugely enhance the taste. The sautéed masala is prepared from onions, garlic pods, ginger and curry leaves, with ample chilli powder added to spice up the taste, while tamarind paste provides the tanginess. Okra and green chillies are then added to the masala followed by pieces of the fish.  A lot of added water makes it into a gravy, which is slow-cooked over some time. Often, most of the fish literally melts into the gravy. Garnishing is done with coriander leaves, and select masalas. It is said that the pulusu tastes even better if eaten a day later. Jaggery and mango pickle oil are sometimes added as variations to the recipe, and even drumsticks used instead of okra.

In Hyderabad, Pulasa Pulusu is hardly available in restaurants. A popular place for the dish is Sri Balaji Caterers at Madhapur, who are selling the preparation in Hyderabad for the last five years during the season. Ramaraju, who runs this catering service is an expert in the authentic preparation of this dish, which is available on prior orders only. 

Pulasa tastes good even when fried in its own fat

Ulavacharu, the well-known Telugu restaurant sometimes serves it only during the season based on availability. As per Vinay Narahari, the owner of the restaurant, the dish has a lot of demand among their loyal customers. They source the original Pulasa fish directly from West Godavari district. 

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 11th August 2018. 

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