Prawn Vadai


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

Isso (prawn) vadai, a popular snack or ‘short eat’ at Galle Face Green, are crisp, deep-fried lentil patties topped with small prawns, and doused with a tangy chilli sauce. Munching on a plate of these while the sun sets over the Indian Ocean certainly beats any five-star-restaurant experience. Many stalls sell prawn vadai; one popular with the locals is run by Rahuft and his uncle. This is their recipe.


  • 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) chana dhal*, soaked in water for 4 hours
  • 60 g ( oz/½ cup) freshly scraped coconut*
  • small pinch of egg yellow powdered food colouring*, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 50 g ( oz/ cup) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 60 small green (raw) school prawns (about 300 g/10½ oz, unpeeled, washed
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 200 g (7 oz) cabbage, very finely shredded
  • ½ red onion*, very thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, very thinly sliced into 4 cm ( inch) strips
  • 1 long, yellow banana chilli, very thinly sliced into4 cm ( inch) strips
  • juice of ½ lime


Drain the soaked dhal, then rinse and drain again; set aside 120 g (4¼ oz/¾ cup) of the soaked dhal. Process the rest of the dhal in a food processor to make a fine paste (do not add any water).

In a large bowl, combine the coconut with the dissolved food colouring. Wearing gloves, mix well with your hands to combine. Add the processed dhal and whole dhal and mix well. Sift in the flour and salt; mix with your hands to form a sticky dough. Take a small handful of the dough (about 30 g/1 oz) and work it into a ball the size of a walnut. Repeat to make 15 balls.

Take a ball of dough and place it between two pieces of plastic wrap, and place on a hard surface. Using the palm of your hand, press down to slightly flatten the ball. Remove the top piece of plastic and arrange 4 prawns on the dough ball, placing them in a straight row and all facing the same direction. Place the piece of plastic on top, then use your palm to press down hard to flatten the discs until they are about 7 cm (2¾ inches) in diameter and 4 mm (⅛ inch) thick. Remove both pieces of plastic wrap and dust the top and bottom of the discs with a little flour.

Fill a large wok one-third full of oil and heat to approximately 160°C (315°F) (a cube of bread dropped into the oil will brown in 30 seconds). Fry in batches for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Meanwhile, combine the cabbage, onion, carrot, chilli and lime juice in a bowl; toss well. Serve the prawn vadai warm with chilli sauce and the cabbage salad.