With the texture and nuttiness of a falafel and the added succulence of king prawns, these Sri Lankan shrimp vadai (prawn fritters) are hugely moreish. The pol sambol is a fiery coconut-based dry chutney that goes well with many spicy dishes – try it with the egg hoppers . Maldive fish flakes are hard to source, but do use them in place of the fish sauce if you can find them.
Soak the chana dal for 2 hours in plenty of cold water, then drain and place in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground, then add the onion, coriander, chillies, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Season well with salt and pepper and process until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and tip in the chopped prawns, mixing them through thoroughly. Take tablespoonfuls of the mixture and shape into balls, flattening slightly into mini patties. Set aside.
To make the pol sambol , place the coconut in a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. Toast, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes until golden in places and aromatic. Remove from the heat into a large bowl. Stir through the onion, garlic, lime juice, chilli powder, fish flakes or sauce, sugar and add a good sprinkle of salt. Taste to check the seasoning: it should be hot, sharp and just a little sweet. Add more chilli, lime juice or sugar, to taste.
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Fry the vadai in batches for 3– 4 minutes until deep golden brown and crisp. Drain over kitchen paper briefly before serving with the pol sambol .