Sri Lanka is a vibrant island full of colour, thanks to the people of many ethnicities, backgrounds, traditions, and lifestyles that call it home. It is because of these people that Sri Lankan cuisine is as colourful as its national flag. Seafood plays a big part in local cuisine as it is freely available in and around the island.
Prawn dishes are favourites in all parts of the country, and when Sri Lankans say they love prawns, they REALLY mean it. The variety of spices and cooking methods (varying with location) used, and even meal times make this tropical island the perfect place to explore the boundaries of one’s love for prawns.
Let’s take a look at the top five Lankan favourites that make prawn lovers hearts flutter;
Jaffna Prawn Curry
There’s something special about prawn dishes from a coastal area, and the Jaffna prawn curry is considered royalty. This dish is loved by both locals and tourists because it’s a delicious curry that goes well with rice, roast paan, pittu, roti, and pretty much anything you’d find in a Lankan kade.
The dish’s flavour is due to two important preparation steps: the marinade and the curry. Prior to preparing the curry, the prawns are marinated in turmeric, tamarind, and chili powder for at least 20 minutes.
The highlight of this dish—as its name suggests—is the Jaffna curry powder. This adds a distinct pepperiness to the dish that pairs well with the rest of the ingredients when the curry is put together.
Along with its oil, curry leaf and onion base, the curry calls for ginger, garlic, cumin, fenugreek, fennel, mustard, and coconut milk. Once the marinade and curry are infused with the Jaffna curry powder and prawns, it brings out a distinct flavour that is recognisable to anyone who has tried this dish once before.
The Jaffna prawn curry makes you feel like you are at the beach with your toes in the sand, savouring each perfectly marinated spoonful.
Here’s a dish that brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘all-rounder’. Devilled prawns should be considered Sri Lanka’s ultimate seafood dish as each bite hits your palate with a sweet and yet spicy rush.
One of the reasons that Lankans love this dish, apart from the prawns, is that it's one of the few prawn dishes that can be easily made with or without gravy. This dish uses prawns marinated in salt and pepper, which are then cooked together with garlic, ginger, onions, capsicums, tomatoes, spring onions, soy sauce, sugar, chili paste, oil and ketchup, adding tones of red and green.
Using ingredients that are available at the nearest podi kade or supermarket, devilled prawns can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to a meal, a snack on its own or with an ice cold beverage.
A great addition to anything from a hopper feast to Sunday lunch with the in-laws, devilled prawns is just the dish to add the right bit of spice to a whole lot of nice.
Hot Butter Prawns
There’s food that you eat every day, and then there’s food that you wish you could eat every day. Hot butter prawns is one dish that belongs to the latter and is a crispy all-time favourite loved by everyone from the young to the young at heart.
A beloved dish belonging to the Sri Lankan-Chinese cuisine, hot butter prawns is a lunch- or dinner-time favourite. This uniquely Sri Lankan dish uses prawns that are first coated in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper, and then deep fried.
Next, these crispy prawns are tossed or pan-fried along with capsicums, onions, chili paste, red chilies, spring onions, ginger, garlic, and sugar. Each ingredient highlights the crunchiness and makes sure that the prawns retain their crispiness till the last prawn. Usually accompanied by fried rice or noodles, hot butter prawns has made its way into the hearts of Sri Lankans and doesn’t seem like it will be replaced any time soon.
Occasionally coated with coconut flakes for an added crunch, this dish makes for a perfect weekend indulgence that’ll have your tastebuds wishing it never finished.
Once in a lifetime, you come across a snack that doesn’t just make your tastebuds happy, but also fills your soul with pure joy. Sri Lanka is home to a snack that does just that—Isso Wade.
Any Sri Lankan or tourist who has visited Galle Face Green knows that the moment the aroma of fried prawn wafts along with the sea breeze towards them, that fresh Isso Wade awaits them at the end of it.
One of Sri Lanka’s oldest street snacks, these flat, circular lentil patties topped with prawns are prepped the night before. The patties are made of lentils that have been soaked overnight and then mashed with ginger, garlic, green and red chilies, curry leaves and onions.
Next, three to four cleaned prawns are placed on top and the patty and prawns are fried till golden. Once fried, these patties are dried and served plain or with onion sambal and gravy.
It’s one of those snacks that brings out nostalgia at the first bite and is savoured for hours after the last bite.
Batter Fried Prawns
Fried prawns really do seem like they should be part of a divine feast, but Sri Lankans make batter-fried prawns a dish that can be treasured by everyone.
This dish is one that transcends ethnicities as it is a simple dish that takes a few minutes to make, and the ingredients are even easier to find. All you need are cleaned prawns, enough batter to coat each prawn, and oil.
First, the prawns are marinated in salt and pepper for added flavour, coated in beaten eggs, and finally, dipped in flour mixed with milk. This particular batter adds a crisp outer coating with a fluffy inner coating.
Once fried till the batter expands, they can be paired with mayo, chilies, garlic, or even sprinkled with lime. You can eat these by themselves or with rice, noodles, couscous, bread, or pretty much anything you want.
Grab one or grab 10; either way, batter fried prawns will be loved by generations to come.
Visit www.isso.lk or call 011 7770300 for delivery of any of these prawn dishes.