Devilled Prawns

Credit Jade Nina Sarkhel-7.jpg

Sri Lankan devilled prawns also known as 'isso baduma', is a traditional appetizer served with pre-dinner drinks, or as a starter on its own. The distinct notes of sweet and sour playing with your tastebuds, washed down with a cold beer is perfection! Each mouthful really is a mini explosion of flavours and textures -the sweet crunch of the peppers, contrasted with the bursts of chilli wrapped around the meaty prawns is delicious! We cook the prawns with the shells on, as so much of the flavour from the pandan leaves to ginger gets soaked into the shells as they crisp up. The crunch of the shells sinking into the succulent prawns, really enables you to appreciate all the textures of these beauties! Prawns are my absolute favourite food, I always scan menus for dishes that include them, and I eat so many of them that Ammie often tells me that one day I will turn into a prawn!

Another drink option to serve with this is 'Ceylon Arrack', which a traditional Sri Lankan spirit made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers. Arrack poured over iced and crushed mint, mixed with some ginger beer and a squeeze of lime; really complements the sweet, sharp notes of the devilled prawns. Whatever the weather, I guarantee that a mouthful of this will bring that warm, sunny feeling to your belly! 

Prep time: 30 mins

Cooking time: 10-30 mins

Serves: 6



  1. Place the prawns in a large bowl. Sprinkle on the black pepper, turmeric and chilli powder and mix to evenly coat. Set aside to marinate for 10–15 minutes.

  2. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the pandan leaf and curry leaves and heat while stirring frequently for 1–2 minutes before adding the sliced onion and carrot. Cook over a medium heat for around 8–10 minutes, stirring frequently.

  3. Meanwhile, make a garlic and ginger paste by bashing the garlic and ginger in a pestle and mortar until well combined. Add to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes.

  4. Add the crushed chilli flakes (to taste) and cook for a further minute before adding the marinated prawns. Cook for a further 2–3 minutes, or until the prawns have turned pink.

  5. Add the chopped tomato, reduce the heat a little then stir in the salt and malt vinegar.

  6. Cook for a minute before adding the red and green sliced peppers. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently for a further few minutes until the vegetables are tender and the prawns cooked through.

  7. Place the cornflour in a small bowl. Add the tomato purée and sugar then add a little cold water (approximately a tablespoon) to loosen. Towards the end of cooking, stir the mixture into the pan and heat for a couple of minutes.

  8. Finally pour in the chilli sauce or ketchup (if using) and heat for another few minutes. 

  9. Serve hot with some cold beers, or arrack topped up with ginger beer, crushed mint and a squeeze of lime!