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

52 thoughts on “Fish curry (Tepla ambat)”

  1. 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??

  2. 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!

  3. 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 :).

  4. 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..

  5. 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…:)

  6. 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?


  7. 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)

  8. 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

  9. 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 :).

  10. 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.

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

  11. 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 !!

  12. Pingback: My Continuing Discovery of Indian Cuisines « A Mad Tea Party

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. hi,
    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 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

  18. Janhavi Mitkar

    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.

  19. 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!

  20. Pingback: Indian food, Andhra recipes and Global cuisine inspired cooking » All Recipes Shilpa Vegetables Vegetarian Recipes » Indian Food Trail - An essay on Konkani Cuisine - by Shilpa

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. varsha naik patil

    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.

  24. dr Madhavi Telang

    It is a very good 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

  25. Surekha,

    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)

  26. 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 will definately make diffrent flavour in the recepie:)

  27. 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.

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

  29. Hi….my mom is a karwari… 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.

  30. Padmanabhan rajagopalan

    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…

  31. 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.

  32. Shilpa,

    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…


  33. Lajwanti Shetty

    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

    1. lol …………….. have any one of u tried her aayis reciepes or just saying or giving compliments like wow!!!!!! a 😀 😀 awesome!!! marvellous!! lol i dont find these reciepes interesting… andshilpa are you from goa????? or else??? coz goan curries are ambot tik not just ambat !!!! 😀 😀 lol

  34. 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

    1. 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.

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

  36. karwarian fish curry we call it as masale kadi / ambat prepared with coconut,coriander seeds,chilli bedagi,garlic,dry mango,onion,(thaifal methi seeds) for few selected fishes.

  37. This recipe brought back memories- not of mother’s cooking, but of my years at college. We never had fish or other non-veg items at home.

    A Bengali batchmate who used to stay as a paying guest at a CSB home in Mumbai, liked the “Teplambat” they made at home. When we all joined college after out SSC and he learn’t I was a CSB, the moniker “Teplambat” stuck easily to me and other aamchis in the batch.

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