Chepa vepudu

These delicious spiced, crispy fried fish fillets are the perfect complement to spring gatherings, lingering evenings and the promise of summer in the air. Ticking all the boxes – a little spicy, a little salty, a little sweet, crispy and juicy – these flavour bombs are inspired by the traditional fish fry’s of south-eastern India. A versatile recipe for the repertoire that lends itself to canapés or tapas-style shared plates.






Spice sprinkle

  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 3 dry red chillies, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut 


Sweet and crisp salad

  • 2 baby cucumbers, finely diced
  • 1/2 green apple, finely diced
  • 2 coriander stalks, cleaned and trimmed, finely chopped leaves
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Pinch of sea salt


Indian spiced fish

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3cm piece ginger,
    peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 30ml lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chickpea flour
  • Salt and black pepper, to season
  • 500g whiting fillets
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 125ml grapeseed oil
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges


1. For the spice sprinkle

Heat a heavy-based fry pan over medium heat, add the oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves, and sauté until they start to pop. Add in the sesame seeds, cumin seeds and chillies, and sauté until the sesame seeds are toasted and the cumin fragrant. Remove from the heat and stir through the toasted coconut. Set aside.

2. For the sweet and crisp salad

Add the cucumber, apple and coriander to a small bowl, squeeze over the lime juice, add a pinch of sea salt and toss together. Set aside.

3. For the fish

Using a spice grinder or small food processor, blitz the garlic, ginger, cayenne, peppercorns, coriander seeds, turmeric, sea salt flakes and lime juice into a paste – add more lime or a little water if needed. You should have a thick but spreadable paste. Set aside while you finish prepping the fish.

Season the chickpea flour with salt and black pepper. Pat the whiting fillets dry with paper towel and coat thoroughly with the chickpea flour. Shake off the excess and sit on a wire rack while you complete the rest of the fillets.

4. To cook and serve

Set up a production line – the dusted fillets, your paste, the plain flour (in a shallow bowl), the frying pan and a wire rack set over paper towel for draining. Heat oil in a heavy fry pan (cast iron if you have it, the benefits of having the right pan for this cannot be overstated – see notes). When the oil is hot but not smoking start your production line, coat each fillet lightly in the paste, then quickly dip into the plain flour and gently place into the pan. Cook 3-5 pieces at a time, do not overcrowd the pan. Fry until crisp and golden on both sides, about 4 minutes. Drain on the wire rack. Continue with the remaining pieces.

Arrange on a platter with the apple and cucumber salad, garnish with the crunchy spice sprinkle and lime wedges, then serve immediately.


  • The freshness of your spice will make a world of difference.
  • Don’t be tempted to use a non-stick pan for this, a thin pan risks burning the batter and under cooking or over-cooking the fish. Don’t worry about the batter sticking, the fish will probably initially stick but as it cooks and crisps up will naturally release when given a gentle nudge.
  • The oil is ready when it shimmers and releases small whisps of smoke. If it is vigorously smoking the pan is too hot, empty the oil and start again.

As seen in Spring 2022

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