Uniquely Ours- Prawn Vadai
By KF Seetoh - Friday, Aug 23, 2019
Stephen and his mum Mdm Jumana
The first thing boss Stephen Suriyah said before we began a proper chat was “I wrote to you in 2015 regarding your Deliciously Singapore videos about featuring our prawn vadai.” Those were a series of videos and recipe we filmed to highlight truly “born and bred in Singapore” makan, to honour our nation’s 50th anniversary. I could not verify it then because I came across an Indian styled isso vadeh that looked very similar but they used blended and spiced chick pea paste as a base. Then his mother, Mdm Jumana Rani recalled, “This is original Singapore, many people sell in Farrer Park area in the 50s” adding, “My mother sold it and said it is created in Singapore”. I could not find this version even in our neighbouring countries back 23 years ago when I first had it. So I missed this, apologies to the deliciously minded migrants that gifted this to Singapore decades ago.
The range you find at their stall
The Singapore style prawn vadai (or vadeh or wade) is much like a crispy outside and fluffy within, kind of prawn doughnut. They originally use a small soft shelled grey prawns but over the years, “a newer generation ask for bigger prawns, as it’s more instagrammable.” Stephen says. Their stall began as pop-ups at various pasar malams over the last 30 years. Arguably, the two most popular prawn vadai stalls at night markets and Hari Raya bazaars, are theirs and Mr Vadai, run by their relatives. But such pop up events are thinning and they now participate in only 3 such events a year and it’s getting difficult to find such snacks in our nation’s menu these days. But it’s amazing just thinking that this single recipe, sold on a part time basis, could help Madam Jumana raise a family for over 30 years. But now, 30 year old millennial Stephen, decided to find a home base here, three weeks ago, because “many customers do not like tracking and finding us all over the city every time we set up pasar malam stalls.”
My attraction to this is real
I never thought I could find anything better than the good ones we’ve tracked over the years but here they are. I went back three times just to check it was no fluke. I like them a little fluffy inside, not flat as if the batter could not rise, and just teasingly crispy at the edges. This one hits the spot. They make the dough batter on site in small batches (50 at a time), let it set for half an hour, mould it, press a huge prawn over and fry them up. The prawn juices seep in and the umami and savoury intensity is a selling point all on its own, never mind the leering prawn. Plus, it’s not overly salty. And with green chilli (warning- they use the smaller much spicier version), it’s a symphony in the mouth. Unlike his mother, Stephen now uses an electric fryer “because we are new generation cooks”, so he can better control the heat. And that works, too (as I’ve tried the old wood fired Farrer Park hawker versions back in the 70s, they sold it in “pop-up baskets” outside the Farrer Park swimming pool where I had swim lessons then).
The ikan bilis version should be less salty, I feel
They also offer an ikan bilis rendition but I felt it was a tad salty than I like. I feel they should pre-soak some of the salt away before frying it. There’s also the plain dough “kosong” fried dough balls, great for kids, like me, too!
The Original Recipe
#01-04, Haig Road Hawker Centre
8am-9pm daily (till further notice)
Tel: 8588 4181