Thotakoora Ava Pettina Pulusu, Mustard seeds flavored stew of Amaranth leaves

Words by Aparna Mudiganti Parinam

Aparna Mudiganti Parinam shares a treasured recipe from her Amma, who carried her Andhra roots wherever she traveled. Her maternal grandparents resided in village near Vizag, and fresh vegetables were always within reach. Aparna emphasizes the need for a calm mind and ample time to prepare this recipe, which cannot be stored and must be enjoyed fresh.

Pulusu’s or stews form an integral part of Andhra cuisine. Of the many varieties of these pulusu’s made in the state of Andhra, this particular category holds a special place in my heart as my mother used to make it, often, with a lot of love and care!

During our childhood days, Amma used to make ‘ava pettina pulusu’ However, we kids used to have a spoonful or two and refuse to have these wholesome stews, maybe due to its unique taste and that we did not prefer to have the greens. Later, as I grew, I acquired a taste for these sharp, mustard flavored accompaniments which pair well with steamed rice, and have a distinctive place of their own in our traditional cuisine.

Later, as I grew, I acquired a taste for these sharp, mustard flavored accompaniments which pair well with steamed rice, and have a distinctive place of their own in our traditional cuisine.

Avalu (mustard seeds in Telugu language) render the pleasant and pungent taste to this dish.

Though it may seem to be time consuming to make this stew, in reality, it takes just around ten to fifteen minutes to prepare it. Usually made with frugal greens like amaranth leaves or spinach, this stew packs in a lot of nutrients, too! The method of adding the mustard paste to flavor stew’s is also used to make curries with cabbage or bottle gourd known as ava pettina kooralu.Cooking these dishes, revives my nostalgic childhood memories and I hope to preserve the culinary heritage of Andhra, through these traditional processes, one recipe at a time!


Thotakoora Ava Pettina Pulusu

For 2-3 persons, cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (for the mustard paste)

  • 1-2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1-2 teaspoon raw rice
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the stew:

  • 2 cups finely cut amaranth leaves (washed and kept aside)
  • 1-2 green chillies (medium sized)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup bottle gourd pieces (peeled and cut into medium size) or
  • ½ cup brinjal pieces (cut into medium size)
  • 2-3 teaspoon tamarind paste/ or 2 tablespoon tamarind water
  • Salt as per taste

For seasoning:

  • 1-2 teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida


  • Soak the ingredients for the mustard paste in a cup of water for 5-10 minutes. After which, grind this mixture to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  • Instead of adding sesame seeds to the soaked mix, one can add a teaspoon of the sesame seeds spice podi (nuvvula podi) to the stew when it is being cooked. My mother followed this process.
  • Take a medium sized vessel, add 2-3 cups of water to it. Add a pinch of turmeric powder andngreen chillies (based on your preference for spiciness) to it. Add the bottle gourd or the brinjal pieces and cover with a lid. Let it boil for 3-5 minutes or until the pieces are cooked.
  • Now, add the amaranth leaves and let it cook for a few minutes. After 2 -3 minutes, add salt and let it cook well.
  • Add the tamarind paste or tamarind water to the above vessel. Stir and let it cook well.
  • When it is warm, add the mustard paste mixture, just a minute before putting off the flame and stir well. Put off the flame.
  • Savor this tangy stew with plain steamed rice or with plain cooked dal and rice.
  • Note: In case, making the mustard paste is not feasible at times, one can mix 1-2 teaspoon of mustard powder with 2 teaspoon of rice flour in a small bowl of water, mix well and add it to the stew (at step 6) Stir well for a minute before putting off the flame.
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