Puli Arnam


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

This light tamarind fish soup is superb — mild in flavour, with a slight tanginess and fiery kick. This is Bamini’s mother’s favourite dish and it’s also my mum’s favourite from the recipes I brought back from Sri Lanka. It’s easy to make and delicious eaten on its own.


  • 4-6 dried long red chillies*, stalks removed
  • 300 g (10½ oz/about 20) small pink Asian shallots*, peeled and left whole
  • 160 g ( oz) tamarind pulp*, soaked in 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) warm water
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) whole white-fleshed fish (such as snapper), cut into 4 cm ( inch) thick cutlets (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons salt


Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the dried chillies and shallots and boil for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Meanwhile, prepare the tamarind pulp following the method. Set the tamarind water aside.

Strain the cooked shallots and chillies and then place them in a food processor and process into a paste.

In a large heavy-based saucepan, combine the shallot paste, the fish pieces (including the head and tail), salt, tamarind water and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water (there should be enough liquid to cover the fish; if not, add a little extra water). Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked. Serve with rice.