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Fish curry (Tepla ambat)

This ambat/curry is the most popular konkan curry I ever wanted to share here. As I said earlier, two types of fish curries are very famous at North Kanara. One of them is Tepla ambat (gravy with teppal Tepla meaning ‘with teppal’ and ‘ambat’ meaning ‘curry’) kande ambat.

The distinguishing taste to this gravy comes from ‘teppal’ and ‘kokum’. A few days back, one of my reader Mugdha sent me the same recipe where in she had specified tamarind juice instead of kokum.

Fishes like bangda(Mackeral), Surmayi(Iswan or Viswan or king fish) or pomfret are used for this dish. This gravy tastes great when prepared very spicy. The traditional gravy is of bright red color. Use Kashmiri chillies if available. The masala should be ground to a very very smooth paste to get the best taste.

Fish pieces 10
Coconut 1 and 1/2 cups
Red chillies 6-7
Ginger 1″ piece
Teppal 5-6
Turmeric a pinch
Kokum pieces 2-3 or thick tamarind juice 1/2 tea spn

Grind coconut with red chillies, ginger and turmeric to a very very smooth paste (grind till the blender/mixer becomes real hot :D) .
Add a tea spn of water along with teppal in a mortar and slightly crush with pestle(only till a white juice is got. The Teppal should not be ground to paste). Some people discard the teppal at this stage and use only the white juice of it, but I like the teppal also in the curry so that the teppal leaves more aroma in the curry as time passes.
Heat the ground masala with sufficient water to get a gravy. Add teppal, kokum pieces(or tamarind juice), salt and cook till the gravy starts boiling. Now add fish (Do not add fish before this, if you do, the fish becomes paste by the time the gravy is cooked) and cook till the fish turns color to white (fish takes around 5-10mins to cook completely).
Serve hot with rice after atleast 2-3 hours from cooking. The taste of gravy increases more on the next day. So prepare it the pravious day and refrigerate it such that next day, you’ll realize how tasty it has become.

Serves : 4
Preparation time : 20min

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{ 49 comments… add one }

  • sudha vinodh June 11, 2006, 5:43 pm

    shilpa, this is a nice one..i never knew how to make the fish curry.., now that u have posted it i will surly try it..But i dont have the teppal any substituion for it??

  • reshma June 11, 2006, 8:25 pm

    Kokum is widely used in fish curries in kerala, but ‘Teppal’ is something new to me. my culinary universe is growing day by day:)thanks for sharing!

    • sana September 27, 2012, 3:01 pm

      the kokum which keralites use is called “kudam puli”. its not kokum .It is a type of tamarind.

  • Shilpa June 11, 2006, 9:15 pm

    Sudha, try the ‘alle kande ambat’, which is equally tasty :).
    Thanks Reshma. Teppal is very very famous in the coastal areas of Karnataka and Goa. It could be easily found in ‘Mangalore shops’ in India :).

  • sqrlnt June 12, 2006, 6:29 am

    Thanks for this recipe.:) Can you please do a post about the orange coloured one? the one thats mainly the bangda curry.. i am not sure if this is the same one..

  • sqrlnt June 12, 2006, 6:29 am

    I guess that was the alle kande ambat:)

  • Lera June 13, 2006, 7:08 am

    Fish Curry with KoKum is something I ‘ve yet to try……Shilpa,Your curry sounds so easy to make,would love to try this soon…:)

  • Deepali July 31, 2006, 5:37 am

    Can you please let me know the alternative name for teppal ( maybe in Marathi or English) so that I can find it here in India?


  • Shilpa July 31, 2006, 6:07 am

    Deepali, click on the links I have mentioned in the post to know more about teppal. It is called as ‘Tirphal’ in Marathi and ‘Sichuan pepper’ in English. It is widely used in Goan cuisine and in Konkani/Marathi dishes by the people who are near to Goa (like Belgaum, Karwar etc)

  • swapan August 1, 2006, 1:18 am

    Different names for Sichuan Pepper in Indian sub continent:-

    In English:
    Szetchwan pepper, Anise pepper, Sprice pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper, Japanese pepper, (Japanese) prickly ash; Indonesian lemon pepper (Zanthoxylum acanthopodium); Nepal pepper (Z. armatum)

    In Hindi:
    Mullilam, Tilfda (Zanthoxylum rhetsa), Tejbal (Z. alatum); Tambhul (Z. acanthopodium)

    In Kannada:
    Kamte kai (Z. rhetsa)

    In Malayalam:
    Kaatmurikku (Z. rhetsa)

    In Konkani:
    Teppal, Tippal (Z. rhetsa)

    In Marathi:
    ????? ,Tirphal, Chirphal (Z. rhetsa)

    In Nepali:
    ???????, ???????,Timur, Timmur, Timbur (Z. alatum)

    In Tibetan:
    Emma, Yerma, G-yer ma (Z. alatum or Z. acanthopodium)

    also one may follow the link below from where I got the names

  • Shilpa August 1, 2006, 5:51 am

    Swapan, I had given this link in my post (Mistress of spices – Teppal). I also linked the post here. I thnik it was not visible at the first go. So thanks for pasting the names here :).

  • Prashant Naik February 20, 2007, 6:55 pm

    This is a very easy n sure recipy with guaranted test. My grandmother, mother and aunts in Vengurla/Kudal and Goa have always made curry like this. I have my memories with this curry.
    Just a bit of advice: Tirphal goes well with only certain fish such as Bangda(Mackeral) and Tarle (Sardin) which has some brown meat. Traditionally we donot use it with fish like Surmayi(Iswan or Viswan or king fish) or pomfret which have more white meat. Curry test good otherwise too. Enjoy.

    • S.S.Karekar April 3, 2013, 3:46 am

      Triphala depresses Obnoxious smell of Tarali ,Banagda when put in curry and also help in digestion.

  • Anu Rao April 11, 2007, 9:05 am

    I had bought Teppal on my trip to Mangalore this time. Had a rough idea about its usage – the one time I tried with American king mackeral – ended up putting 15 teppals – turned out too spicy. Thanks for recipe…now I can try the real way !
    By the way, would you be having the recipe for tomato saaru – Udupi style. I have been trying to get this recipe for a long time – I just cannot get the same saaru smell/taste that they serve in wedding halls/temples in coastal Karnataka. – Thanks for wonderful recipies again… great job !!

  • kamal singh July 25, 2007, 12:46 am

    the recipe is really good which we tried in our restaurant

  • Anirudh December 8, 2007, 1:10 pm

    Swapan is right, Teppal is called Tirphal in Marathi/Goan saraswat Kokni

    This used to be the precious spice back in the 16th century when the portugese came to colonise Goa, it is hung as a traditional decoration during Ganesh Chathurti festival in Goa.

  • Anirudh December 8, 2007, 1:17 pm

    Another thing is the Variation is addition of the Kokum, My Saraswat grandmother used to throw an odd piece of soaked kokum and Garlic with 1 piece of raw turmeric stalk (not powder) in the initial griding mixture. This will arguably raise the flavour of curry exponentially.
    So earlier in the process the kokum is soaked for atleast 1/2 hour in warm water (not hot) and this water is used while boiling the gravy instead of the kokum pieces and the one or two pieces from here itself are used in the initial grinding mixture. (too much pieces will render the gravy sour till unpleasant.

    • Karla Pengsagun June 18, 2013, 7:01 am

      Hi Anirudh, This looks like a great recipe, thanks for posting it! :-)

  • nazrina March 16, 2008, 9:14 pm

    my name is nazreena please try and come up with a diabetic birtday using equal and evarporated milk. thank for your moral support and your patience.thank i love your website .and try to create a a diabetic chocolate using equal sugar add more evaroparated milk the the recepies and rasins cashew nut rasins.thanks for your understanding am a slow learner who is learnig how to cook muslim name is rahima

  • Puja April 26, 2008, 3:43 am

    Thanks a ton … I make traditional kerala fish curry and I was trying to find something different …. I found a new use of Teppal u mentioned here … am definitely going to try this one … thanks again

  • aparna May 6, 2008, 2:41 am

    I am from Goa. As u all will be knowing that goans likes fish, this is also true with me.
    This receipe of Tepal Ambat is made more often at our household, i just would like to add that we add tamrind juice or small ball of tamrind and a green chilly with kokum pieces, and rest receipe is the same.so this makes the curry ( ambat and thickat). if green tepal is available, ususally during ganesh chaturti in goa. the curry turns out to be fantastic because of fresh auroma of green tepal, tastes very good with fish like bangada.
    Dried Tepal can also used in this receipe.
    happy cooking

  • Janhavi Mitkar May 17, 2008, 1:34 am

    i would like to know by each step from starting like which MASALAS we must take to grind and how to BAGAR (in marathi FODNI). please send me the same RECEIPE same as above with details.

  • Susan May 17, 2008, 8:37 pm

    Oh, yay, Shilpa! This is the one I was thinking of! And I clean forgot about the tamarind. Ooo, yes!

  • veena October 11, 2008, 1:11 am

    hey ur recipe is really nice n simple! we 2 make fish curry in a similar way but we also add 2tsp of coriander seeds & sol(dried raw mango ) instead of kokum also lime juice 2tsp can be used instead! and 1 more splecial thing abt the fishcurry we make isfried sasav n methi just 3-4 seeds of each in the mixy for grinding sasav is mustard seeds !try it u 2 will like it!

  • Surekha January 27, 2009, 2:35 am

    I would like to know the shelf life of “teppal”. I have a stock of teppals left with me since the last five years or so. Can they be used to give enough flavour? Or should I opt for the fresh ones?. please suggest. Also tell me the difference between “kodampuli” and “kokam”. Some blogs have explained kodampuli to be superior to kokam and give better flavour to fish curry than kokam. or is it just a flaunt? Do you know about the same? please tell me if you know.

    Thanks for your “chicken Ghee roast'” recipe.Bye.

    Shilpa: As time passes, the aroma of teppal diminishes. So it is best to use it within a year.
    I haven’t used Kodampuli any time.

    • sana September 27, 2012, 3:32 pm

      yes surekha kodampuli is much more flavourful than kokum. it gives super taste to fish curries.
      But it doesnt mean that it is superior to kokum.
      both have their unique taste

      my mom used to prepare the same fish curry.brought back memories. i am from kerala.

  • pelicano July 4, 2009, 4:33 pm

    Shilpa: I made this yesterday and it is oh, so good! I simmered the gravy for 3 hours as you said…then let it rest for a few hours, then re-heated to cook the fish (I used a fish called “whiting”). The gravy is so deliciously-delicate with a subtle sweet-sour from the coconut-kokum. Fragrance of the teppal is marvelous- that in combo with the kokum lends such a nice fruity flavour. Thank you so much!

  • varsha naik patil October 28, 2009, 7:25 am

    hey there!

    i was so happy 2c this konkan fish recipe,the one which am so fond of. this thaiphal ambat tastes awesome only for mackarel(bangda) and sardine(tarley). i belong to karwar which is my native and infact this tamarind which we use in the curry is known as SOL that is dry mango. i remembered my granny and my good old days of childhood where we savoured such great karwari cuisine including tisrey(shell fish) crab curry and so much of seafood. neways thanks a ton.

  • dr Madhavi Telang July 8, 2010, 11:47 am

    It is a very good reciepy.my mother -in-low tought me similar Ale Kande Ambat . she use to crush chopped green chillies +chopped ginger +chopped onion & sqeez out the juice and that she use to add when curry is boiling and this gives different aroma. pls try it

  • Sonia October 20, 2010, 8:47 am


    Kochumpuli is a coorgi Vinegar. They use it to make their pork dishes and it has a distinct flavor. Kokum is a good substitute for Kochumpuli (pretty close to it, especially if you are living overseas)

  • Gauri November 10, 2010, 4:53 am

    Hi there,
    I just wanted to add some more ingredients in this recepie..i thiks so it will really make this recepie more tastey…belive me…while making a paste of coconut u just need to add some garlic colves and coriender seeds…and also when gravey is cooking add 7-8 thrifal (Marathi spice name) in it..it will definately make diffrent flavour in the recepie:)

  • parineeta January 8, 2011, 7:00 am

    Gauri is correct. I also prepare this receipe by using garlic (not ginger) ,coriander seeds soaked with red chillies,onion,tomato which gives good red colour, if you want more spicy you can add some green chillies also. If u donot have tirfal no matter . but use kokam it test nice.

  • Deepa April 18, 2011, 1:45 am

    Hey are u from karwar??? … all your recepies look similar what my mom prepares… :)

    • Shilpa April 18, 2011, 8:49 am

      Deepa, I am from a small place called Kodkani in Kumta.

  • Deepa April 18, 2011, 11:20 pm

    Hi Shilpa,
    I know kodkani…. :) nice to see this website… good work shilpa… the names are so much familiar . Thanks for all the recepies :)

  • SYK December 31, 2011, 1:42 am

    I can smell it right here.

  • Priya January 22, 2012, 4:37 pm

    Hi….my mom is a karwari…..so I usually make food which is karwari based….. The one u made … V call it tikhla. Nice I really adore it this is the exact way I make it.

  • umakant Deshmukhe March 10, 2012, 10:38 am

    Thanks for this dish I will prepare it tomorrow as it is Sunday

  • Padmanabhan rajagopalan March 27, 2013, 7:24 am

    I have eaten a fish curry made with sardines in Lakshmi Hotel Hubli long ago and still feel that was one of the best I have ever tasted. They use Jhumki Kayi along with the coconut and other masalas. It has a heavenly flavour. I use sichuan Pepper or Kwanjal in my fish curries along with a bit of Ajwain as Jhumki Kayi is not to be found . Please ask your Karwar or Honnavar friends and let me know what it looks like…

  • Mark Colan March 30, 2013, 8:31 am

    I have a friend in Mumbai who has Goan family, and from them I learned about tirphal/teppal. They gave me some to take home (Boston) to experiment with. I found that the EZ Indian Grocery in Woburn MA has the kokum I need. Now I have all the rare ingredients I need, except for time! But that will come soon.

    I have both Sichuan peppercorns and tirphal in my spice cabinet. They are similar, but the tirphal is much larger and, I believe, a bit more pungent. I was told that tirphal is nearly impossible to get in Mumbai or anywhere outside of Goa; indeed, my sample was obtained from my friend’s family member’s spice cabinet.

    As you can see from my name, I am not Indian, but I have a huge interest in regional Indian cuisines, especially those of South India. Thanks for providing this recipe! It is similar to how my friend’s family described it, but more specific.

    One thing they told me: crush it or break it up a little (not grind) then soak it in a little warm water about 15 minutes to reconstitute it before using it. Both the husk and the water it soaked in can be used.

    Incidentally, Sichuan peppercorn is most commonly found in the red color, but in Sichuan Province, they also sell a green one that looks like a tiny version of tirphal. I assume the difference is how ripe it is.

  • Vishal March 30, 2013, 1:18 pm


    Was just reading your recipe… However, I would like to point out that blending / mixing in the mixer or blender will make the masala hot and loose its taste. Best way to get this masala is using the ragda….

    However, are you aware of any alternate ways of making this masala without making it hot and not loosing its taste…


    • Shilpa March 30, 2013, 1:57 pm

      I use cold water to grind if it gets heated.

  • Lajwanti Shetty April 5, 2013, 3:35 am

    Hi Shilpa,

    Konkani fish curry is very similar to Mangalorean curry but the masalas are a little less. We add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, onion, garlic, cocunut, red chillies & tamarind. Try using all these ingredients and the fish curry would be heavenly.

    Lajwanti Shetty

  • Srikantha January 8, 2014, 2:30 pm

    Hi Shilpa,

    Thanks for the lovely receipe. Did you find tepla ( I call it Theppal) in US and curious to know what it’s called in English, So that I could get it from some Chinese stores

    • Shilpa January 8, 2014, 4:22 pm

      We call it teppal too. “tepla” means “something that is made with teppal” :). I haven’t found teppal here in US. Chinese stores has something called as Sichuan pepper which looks like pepper much smaller that teppal and has a different aroma.

  • Sangita Rege Chitnis February 7, 2014, 6:30 am

    I prepared the curry nd it came out very well. Thx

  • vinisha April 22, 2014, 4:58 pm

    Karwarian fish curry doesn’t include ginger in their gravy instead add some coriander seeds or coriander powder…

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