Makansutra: Original prawn vadai that's uniquely Singapore
Original Recipe's prawn vadai is crispy yet fluffy
The first thing boss Stephen Suriyah said before we began a proper chat was that he wrote to me in 2015 about featuring his prawn vadai in Makansutra's Deliciously Singapore.
That was a series of videos and recipes we filmed to highlight born-and-bred in Singapore makan, to honour our nation's 50th birthday.
I could not verify it then because I came across a vadai that looked similar, but with a blended and spiced chickpea paste as the base.
Then Mr Stephen's mother, Madam Jamuna Rani, recalled: "This is original to Singapore and created in Singapore. Many people sold it in the Farrer Park area in the 1950s."
I could not find this version even in our neighbouring countries 23 years ago when I first had it. So if I missed this, apologies to the migrants that gifted this to Singapore decades ago.
Mr Stephen, a 30-year-old millennial, decided to find a home base at Haig Road Market and Food Centre three weeks ago because "many customers do not like tracking and finding us all over the city every time we set up a pasar malam stall".
The Singapore-style prawn vadai is crispy outside and fluffy within, kind of like a prawn doughnut.
Small soft-shell grey prawns were originally used but Mr Stephen said that over the years, "the newer generation asks for bigger prawns as they are more Instagrammable".
Their Original Recipe stall began as a pop-up at pasar malams over the last 30 years.
The two most popular prawn vadai stalls at night markets and Hari Raya bazaars are theirs and Mr Vadai, which is run by their relatives.
But there are fewer such pop-up events and they now participate in only three a year so it is getting difficult to find such snacks.
It is amazing that this recipe, sold on a part-time basis, has helped Madam Jamuna raise a family for over 30 years.
I went back to Original Recipe three times just to check it was no fluke.
I like my prawn vadai a little fluffy inside and just teasingly crispy at the edges.
This one hits the spot.
The dough batter is made on site in small batches (50 at a time), set for half an hour and moulded. A huge prawn is pressed over it and then fried.
The prawn juice seeps in and the umami and savoury intensity is a selling point all by itself. It is also not overly salty. With the green chilli (be warned that a smaller but much spicier version is used), it is a symphony in the mouth.
Unlike his mother, Mr Stephen uses an electric fryer "because we are new-generation cooks" and also because he can better control the heat.
They offer an ikan bilis version as well, but I feel it is a tad saltier than I would like. There are also the plain kosong fried dough balls, which are great for children and adults alike.
The Original Recipe
Haig Road Market and Food Centre, #01-04
8am to 9pm daily
K.F. Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram