Isso Vadai (Sri Lankan Prawn vadai)


Vendors selling prawn vadais in carts dimly lit by bottle lamps is a sight that one never misses at Galle Face Green in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The cocktail smell of the sea, Kerosene from the lamp, food frying in coconut oil and other street food wafting in the air make passers-by to devour a few pieces these vadais.

When I saw these little prawns, my memory raced back to my time at  Galle Face Green and started craving for prawn vadai.

These little fritters or vadais are made with halved chickpeas, onion, ginger, green chili, cumin & fennel and topped with three small whole prawns are fried in coconut oil and served with chopped onion, green chilies, tomatoes. salt and lime juice.


Yields: 15-20 pieces                                                   

 Time: 45- minutes +1 hour for soaking chickpea halves 


250 grams of Chickpea halves/channa dhal, soaked for 1 hour in cold water

45-50 nos whole small prawns, cleaned (clean the back of the head and devein)

1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely

1- 2 green chilies, chopped or sliced

2-3 dried red chilies

1 tsp cumin

1tsp fennel

2 cm piece of ginger, peeled & chopped finely

A few Curry leaves, chopped finely( Optional but highly recommend for their flavour)

Salt to taste

For the flour paste:

2-3 tbsp plain flour

About 5-6 tbsp of water


1.In a food processor/mixie grind the soaked and drained chickpea halves along with dried red chilies, cumin, fennel, ginger and salt to a coarse paste.

2.Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the chopped onion, green chili and curry leaves if you are using.


3.Make the flour paste by mixing the flour and water to obtain a smooth thick paste.Leave it aside.

4.Form small balls with a wet hand; flatten the fritters; apply the flour paste on one side and place the prawns on the paste. Leave it on a plate until you finish making with the rest of the mixture and prawns.


5.Heat oil over medium heat.When hot add the fritters gently prawn side up; fry until golden brown.

IMG_2211 (1)

Fry them gently as the fritters need to be cooked in the centre.

Serve them with chopped onion,tomatoes,  green chilies, salt and a squeeze of lime/lemon juice.




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