Mussels Pulusu is a delicious & simple dish from the lovely South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, located along India’s south eastern coastline. A “pulusu” is basically a very flavorful tamarind based curry. The food from this region is fiery hot, as in “off the hook” spicy. But feel free to adjust the spice levels to suit your own palate. I have made this recipe using mussels but feel free to make this dish with any meat, seafood, vegetables, paneer or tofu. Just note that cooking times will vary accordingly.
Tamarind is very commonly used in India, especially in South Indian cooking. It is used to add a sour or tart component to a dish and balance out the other spices. Tamarind comes from a large tropical fruit-bearing tree that produces a brown pod, known as a tamarind pod. When ripe, the pod yields an edible dark brown pulp (known as tamarind pulp) that has a very distinctive and unique taste combining the flavors of sweet, sour and tart.
Sambar powder is a versatile spice blend commonly used in South Indian cooking, it is easily available in any Indian grocery store.
Many home cooks are often intimidated by the thought of cooking mussels, but I assure you – it’s very simple & much easier than you think. So don’t be shy, go ahead & give them a try ☺.
MUSSELS PULUSU (Andhra Style Mussels)
2 lbs live mussels
1 medium onion, finely diced
1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled & finely minced
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 large tomatoes, pureed
2 tsp tamarind concentrate (or tamarind powder), to taste
4-5 dried red chilies
3-4 fresh curry leaves
pinch of asafetida (hing)
˝ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 heaping tsp sambar powder (or you can use garam masala)
salt & peppers, to taste
1 tbsp oil (or vegetable or canola)
2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
Thoroughly wash & scrub the mussels, discard any beards that remain attached to the shells. Also, discard any mussels that are open and fail to close shut when lightly tapped. I always soak the mussels for about 15-20 minutes in a large bowl filled with cool water & about 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour. This helps to get rid of any sand inside the shells. Drain well & set aside until needed.
In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the dried red chilies, curry leaves & asafetida. After 30 seconds or so, add the onions. Stir fry until lightly browned & then add the ginger & garlic. Stir fry for an additional 2-3 minutes & then add the turmeric, sambar powder, salt & pepper. Then add the pureed tomatoes & tamarind, stir well to combine & bring to a gentle boil.
Now add the cleaned mussels, reduce the heat, cover & let steam for 6-8 minutes by which time all the mussels should have fully opened. If any mussels have failed to open, discard them. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves & coconut. Serve with fresh chapatis & fragrant Basmati rice.
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