Sunday, August 5, 2007

Chemmeen Vada – Kerala Style Prawn Fritters

Location: A small town in Kerala
Yours truly and her aunt
Almanac: Late 80’s
Scene: A young girl……in her favourite topaz blue frock, printed with cute little heart shapes in white, with laces around the neck, tied with a pretty little bow on the back, sitting casually on the kitchen counter, indulging herself in a casual conversation with her aunt who is also in a very light mood…..smiling and talking to the little girl while she pounds a handful of prawns with a mortar and pestle set…and mixes some spices…..fires up a small “cheena-chatti” ( a mini Chinese wok).....pours some oil….then she goes out in a haste and comes back with a fresh plantain leaf cut from the backyard……washes the leaf in a hurry…..and takes some mixture, makes a ball….flattens them on the plantain leaf….slides each of ‘em into the hot oil…..she keeps the fried ones aside on a plate…..our little girl, still talking incessantly, sitting on the counter, kicking her legs in the air carelessly, picks up the fried ones and nibbles 'em, still entertaining her aunt with all her stories ……..this frying and talking and nibbling continue…..and after almost 10-15 minutes aunt notices an empty plate on the side and hiding her astonishment, she tells the little girl, “Honey…..keep 1-2 for your uncle as well!” Girl realizes her mistake and in embarrassment she replies,” ohhh….I am so sorreee…..I forgot that completely…….and this tasted so yummmmmmmm ….I have never had such a tasty snack " :)

- The End -

This is one of the many childhood yarns associated with yours truly, in our family circles……an anecdote that excites everyone while narrating whenever there is a family get-together over food, with a prawn dish in particular…….my aunt still affectionately recollects this episode whenever I meet her……she did not fail to share the story with CJJ, the day she got to entertain him with her tasty preparations… this was a double appetizer for him…….and after all these years, even when I was on my vacation last year, when I was enjoying my full piece of Karimeen Porichathathu, fried pearl spots, she went on to dig up the old thread again!!!!! :) And I do enjoy all those teasing…some of my childhood memories that’s still evergreen in my mind……..and for more than a month, this childhood episode was hitting the shores of my mind with waves of nostalgia, and I saw myself finally cooking up this delicacy! :-) This time I had no competition as uncle was not there and CJJ, not being a prawn lover, I got to eat the maximum and had to share only 2-3 with him :D

  • ½ lb (Approx. ¼ kg) prawns or shrimp peeled, deveined and washed thoroughly.
  • 4-5 small red pearl onions/shallots
  • ½ to ¾ tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 7-9 fresh green chillies
  • A small sprig of curry leaves coarsely chopped
  • ¼ tsp of turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Using a small jar of the food processor or blender, make a coarse paste of the small onions, green chillies, ginger and curry leaves. To this, add the cleaned prawns or shrimp and run the processor until everything combines well, forming a coarse paste and add turmeric powder and salt to taste. Do not make them too smooth as you do for chutney or other condiments.
  • Make around 10-12 small balls with this mixture and flatten them into a round shape; For flattening, keep the ball of mixture onto your left palm and press it with your right palm. You can do this either on a plastic wrap sheet or a plantain leaf as well, whichever is convenient.
  • Heat oil in a small saucepan, deep fry each of them, in low-medium heat, until it is cooked or reaches brown colour. Serve warm with a hot cup of tea/chai.
Mistakes made and tricks learnt:
I added only 7 green chillies which did not provide me the required heat, so I ended up adding ½ tsp red chilly powder, which compromised the visual appeal, resulting in a slightly black colour, according to my mother. So it is better to go with green chillies alone. From the photographs, my mother felt that my base mixture of small onion, ginger, green chillies and curry leaves were not a coarse paste exactly, which was true to an extent :D Yes, she is a perfectionist in cooking! So, make sure that you follow both the tips to make your Chemmeen Vada/Prawn Fritters, appealing not only to your palate but also to your eyes :)

Verdict: A ‘must try’ for prawn lovers! The ones in pictures were the last two ‘saved’ with great difficulty, for the sheer act of photographing this dish, to blog!!


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  1. I was about to ask if 9 green chillies are too much, and you already answered it. Yes the pictures look reddish brown as if you have added tomato paste to it. I really thought so. I will be trying this for sure to see if this is the chemmeen vada my husband talks about.

  2. Shn, that's such a cute story :). and those vadas look great! really appetizing! No wonder you polished them off :). Is there any vegetarian substitute i can use, because its really too tempting to not make it!

  3. Oh my god, this looks so tempting!!! SHn, you are a great cook and food artist!

  4. Hai Shn,
    I chanced on ur blog 2 days back&found it very interesting.I read all ur write ups&recipes,at times laughing,giggling&sometimes lost in nostalgic childhood memories.ur writeups r wonderful,very lively.Ofcourse,ur food too!!I laughed a lot when I read Mathews' comments on Easter,(taking vengeance on non-veg food)as I am used to such breakfast mornings.
    Myself,being a christian,married to a Muslim,now living in Dubai,very much miss those days,as I can't go home for Easter,due to children's school.
    We r fond of prawns,will surely give a try,as our 10th wed.anniversary falls this week.

  5. Cute story Shn... I could just imagine you sitting there and eating, but not the small you, I am actually imagining you all grown up and stealing your uncle's prawn fritters :)

    And the picture looks greatt.. I was wondering how you got the color from those ingredients, and then I read about the chilli powder... now that makes sense. I guess I will try the accidental version, and add the powder, because that dark brown color is very appetizing to me... :)

  6. A nice and cute lil story...
    The pics are so very tempting and inviting :)

  7. Cute story! The shrimp looks lovely. A wonderful dish!

  8. Smacking my lips!! What a treat that is! I thought you added tomatoes to it seeing the red colour. I have to make this!!

  9. Looks absolutely delicious Shn. Lovely story too. Don't worry most shrimp lovers would have been in the same boat too, but then again uncle gets to enjoy aunt's cooking everyday doesn't he?

    I am going to try this but I better make a ton, everybody loves shrimp in my house.

  10. shn, Topaz blue frock sounds good girl!!:D
    I can imagine why you wanted to eat all of them.Looks beautiful and spicy!!

  11. Shn, you conjure a tale as vivid as your topaz blue frock. Adorable. And your prawn patties look easy and superb.

  12. We make this too and I absolutely love it given my love for prawns. But I don't add the curry leaves.

    And your frock sounds pretty

  13. 7 green chillies and you still don't find that hot enough!!! They would be enough to burn my mouth, 10 times round :)( well, that's because, even a small bite of chilli sends me running for water:D!!!it's Dinesh who's the only chilli lover in the house)...apart from that, the fritters look veeeery tempting...such a gorgeous colour :)

  14. Shn
    I don't need my Dal. I will settle for your prawn vada just by themselves, they are so good. My Nani used to make one kind where she used to pound a large sized prawn with a pestle, flatten it, add some spices to it and dip it in batter and fry it. That would be simply awesome

  15. wowowowowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! that is an awesome looking snack. no gram/rice flour? just onions. seems too simple! my mom makes chippi vada like this with the tiny clams, but she add ricce flour to bind it.also u can use parchment paper to roll it out.

  16. Hey after Mauulugirl's comment I noticed that you did not add anything to bind it, I do use a little besan or a little mashed potato.

    Did you do without any ?

  17. Mallugirl & Sandeepa, Thanks ! Well, there is no binding agent required for this, as the prawns/shrimps itself acts as a binding agent...they glue to each other once they are pounded or made a coarse paste...haven't u noticed, how they all sit together tightly when you keep a handful of peeled shirmps/prawns together? it works the same way will have no trouble flattening them and frying them without flour, also that will dilute the taste...again as sandeepa's granny used to do, you can pound 'em with mortar and pestle too, thats how my aunt did.

    Hope that helps!


  18. your story is so lively...i could just imagine the whole thing like a movie....
    your presentation is awesome as usual , but i skipped the recipe part as its not for me...!

  19. This memory is as delicious as the prawn fritter. Will definitely try it. I looooove prawns.

  20. I had to get back here to ask, when are you inviting me to tea (read when are you making prawn vadas again):)))) That picture has been swimming in my head...

  21. Shn, you have this vivid style of writing which puts the whole scene in front of the reader and makes him/her feel a part of it. :) It was like I am actually seeing you in a topaz blue (is there a color like this?) frock and your aunt pounding the prawns. :)

  22. Shn,
    Iwas trying ur chicken roast,let me ask a doubt-
    Here the chicken I get takes only 25-30 minutes to get cooked;so is there any need to pressurecook the chichen after 20mts. on low fire?Will it get overcooked?

  23. Liz, I dont know if u already finished making the chicken...just now I saw the message....I suggest you keeping the chicken in the pan, only till it starts separating the oil or u see some oil coating on the chicken.....and then immediately transfer it to the cooker.....and just wait for steam or maximum one whistle...thats what my mother also does, as they chicken we get back home is very tender...this process really helps to get a better taste.....actually steaming itself is enough for the chicken to get cooked , no need to wait for the whistle as such....pls make sure that chicken is very well coated with the marinade....if the marinade is less, then u may not get the dark brown colour in the pls make sure that u have enough to coat the chicken. Hope it comes out well ...pls feel free to comment here if u have more more marinade, low heat cooking only till the oil separates, and steam in the cooker...all the best...have fun at ur wedding anniversary celebs :)


  24. What if comes to Prawn and fritter lover?:)..Fantastic, Classic post with awesome pictures..:)

  25. once i had chemmeen vada, from someones place and was always on the look out for the recipe. I will try this recipe out. looks like a simple recipe.

  26. I must try this weekend..what a lovely and mouthwatering recipe, the picture looks so inviting and satisfying. I wanna have few fritters, pls!

  27. Shn,
    Thanks for the tips.But,as I had already started,I went on.Anyway,I didn't pressurecook,but did it on slow fire only.I think pressure cooking may give it a little more moisture content.No problem,it came out well,&was very tasty.The funny thing was the dish tasted almost like our Kottayamstyle beef roast.I prepare beef almost the same way,with shallots&pepper(or half pepper&half chilly powder,no coriander),but only half of that garlic&fennel seeds&an addition of fried coconut slices(thengakothu).It's also very tasty,give it a try if u use redmeat once in a while.
    The dish did look same as yours;usually I use plenty of shallots in my nonveg dishes insted of onion.

  28. Collapses due to shear desperation!!! ;-P

  29. Prawn fritters is looking great.... Nice story....Excellent recipe....Love it...

  30. LOL mishy... u always know how to take me down the memory lane:) growing up in a joint family for first few yrs of my life is one of the best moments. and everytime i read ur stories i can very well connect to my past:) thank u for that darling:)

  31. RP,add green chillies according your family's tolerance may not be able to take so much heat.....hope your hubby likes this :)

    Musical, hehhe...thanks dear :) veg substitute for prawn..?? I dont know dear.....we make fritters with toor dal the same way...soak the dal and grind it.....may be that one u can try :)

    Anh, thanks so much....and look who's talking...someone who dresses up her food in ribbons and with candles ?? :))

    Liz,I am flattered and You made my day !!! Thanks a lot for your sweet words.....and am glad you already tried the chicken roast...yes, the pressure cooking makes the chicken how was the wedding anniv? adichu policho.. ?:)) when I get time, i add small onions for beef too...they make a lot of difference right :) hey,,,how about starting your own blog....X'ian +muslim combo can only produce a treasure of yummiest dishes :)

    Sig, hahhaha.....the big me cant such stupid stuff right :)) good ole day when were all free to make mistakes !! ok, try the accidental version and see if u like :) will go well with a bottle of beer :D

    Cinnamon,thank you dear....wanna give it a try ? :)

    Meeta, thank you so much :)

    Jyothsna, so why wasting time roaming around here...go and make a batch for u and hubby :)

    Indosungod , yes, uncle is a lucky man ....:) start with a small batch and see if it satisfies your family's palate...:)

    Asha, oh..thank you dear...yes, that was a pretty dress...:)

    Susan, thanks a lot, my friend :) it's quite easy !

    Sandeepa, for a prawn lover like you, this is a sure treat.....:)

    Sunita, oh...then you pls reduce the chillies.....acco. to your tolerance level..:)

    Nanditha, thanks dearie :)

    Cynthia, thank's a sweet memory for me :)

    Jyothsna, hehhe....u can come over anytime.....:)

    Coffee, I am flattered and blushing as well :) yes...topaz blue colour is there....if u have time, go check my shortbread hearts post in the 'from the oven' section and there is a ring in that pic....thats a topaz :)

    Poonam & Bharathy, thank you :)

    Pravs, yes it's a very simple and easy recipe...dont know if it's same recipe u re looking out....I hope you like it...btw, increase the green chillies :))

    Padma, U can have for sure :)

    N, thank you :)

    Mathew, more exotic kerala dishes for some time, is that ok? :)

    Sukanya, & Kanchana, Thank you friends :)

    Sia, hmm...this happened in one of the school vacations at my aunt's place and I was always a nuclear family product, and that explains this behaviour right :))


  32. hey shn, where've u been? this vada looks so yummy.. i am soo ready for an evening snack! sigh.. back to work i guess..

  33. ur chemmeen vada looks mouthwatering. so easy to make.

  34. Hi there, I like your blog! Nice recipe prawn fritters look yummy :) Feel free to visit my blog too :)

    Click here for jeenas food recipe blog :-)

  35. wow looking yummy.........though i don't eat prawn my husband does.nice one i can try it.

  36. Nee enne kodipichu kollum. I got weak in the knees by the mere mention of the word chemeen. Your fritters look divine, celestial, breat-taking, lucious, delectable, & what not!!!! I am short of words.

  37. Just tried it yesterday.Was awesome, couldn't stop eating.

    thanks for the recipe.

  38. thanks for sharing the recipe... i tried it.. and they were awesome:).

    must say it is pleasure reading your blog and trying out your recipes...

    keep sharing...

    merry x'mas

  39. lovely story,lovely pic, i tried it, i had to use egg to keep it together.yummy stuff.

  40. chemmeen vadas r my villiammas speciality...ive been thinking out making some since quiet sum time...juz tried this out...n my hubby really loved it...the only variation i brought about was to grind them all using our traditional mortar n pestle...n it does add to the taste :-)....great going mishmash!!!!thanks to ur wonderful recipes

  41. Dear Mishmash,

    I have been a regular at your blog site since a couple of years now, another one of your many anonymous fans ,am sure. Just wanted to let you know- you saved my pride on an evening with "judgmental guests" with this recipe, thanks!


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