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Isso Vade : The spicy snack that unities Sri Lanka



As the train pulled into Peradeniya Junction station in central Sri Lanka, the man sitting opposite me leapt out of his seat and leaned out of the window, placing his thumb and forefinger in his mouth and whistling loudly. A vade seller soon appeared outside, removed a basket from the top of his head and handed it to the passenger. The man quickly pulled out a fragrant fritter along with a small bag of fiery sambol, leaving money behind, and then passed the basket to other hungry passengers, who did the same before returning the basket back to the seller through the window.

As the train chugged away, everyone settled back in to their seats and contentedly crunched on what I’d later learn were isso vade: lentil patties topped with fresh prawns and deep-fried to create one of the most delicious street foods you could ever find on an island.

Isso (prawn) vade (pattie) are beloved throughout Sri Lanka, and their popularity can perhaps be attributed to their deeply familiar and simple ingredients: lentils and prawns, along with onions and curry leaves. Topped with a spicy sambol – made of chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies and lime juice – plus chilli sauce for extra punch, each fritter has the perfect balance of crispy texture, zesty aroma and spicy flavour. And at Rs 50 to 70 each, they are an inexpensive, tasty treat for the masses.

The most famous isso vade are sold from carts along Galle Face, a seafront promenade in Colombo. Each evening, when the gentle breeze, which has travelled for miles over the Indian Ocean, finally encounters land and cools the city, thousands gather here to spend time with family and friends. They walk up and down the promenade, sizing up each isso vade seller to decide which one has the best offering – usually the one with the largest crowd.

Rashintha Rodrigo, co-owner of UK’s Sri Lankan street food restaurant chain The Coconut Tree, reminisces about eating isso vade on Galle Face. “I’d go to the kite festivals on Galle Face with friends, and we always ate isso vade together. No matter how much you ate them, they never lost their novelty. I think that’s because no one makes isso vade at home. They are in every sense, a street food; you only buy them outside.”

Although isso vade is now sold at every beach, seafront, train station or public space where people might gather, the much-loved street food has humble beginnings that tell a larger story about Sri Lanka’s history and culinary culture.

According to Chef Publis Silva of Mount Lavinia Hotel, lentil vade (sans prawns) were introduced to Sri Lanka from southern India. This, he says, likely happened during the time Sri Lanka was under British rule, between 1796 and 1948, and South Indian labourers were brought over to work on tea plantations. These workers settled in the mountainous Central Highlands and established small settlements that would later be identified as the Hill Country Tamil community.

Sri Lankan food blogger Anoma Wijetunga agrees. Vade, she explained, is traditionally made of ground masoor dal (red lentils), which doesn’t grow in Sri Lanka but in India; therefore, this is a food which most certainly crossed the ocean to arrive in Sri Lanka.

“Workers who arrived from South India only ever used dal when making vade,” Wijetunga said. “They never use prawns. And that is how this community still makes them. As for how they spread to the rest of the island, I think it might have been when the men folk began selling them on the trains. Of course, that too is something that came over from India and still happens there to this day.”

Jesmin Arumugam, who grew up in the Hill Country and is central team manager at The Tea Leaf Trust, an educational organisation for young people in Sri Lankan tea estates, remembers her mother making vade at home during every Hindu festival over the years. “The times that she made isso vade, we’d always eat it with a green chilli chutney and a cup of very sweet milk tea,” she reminisced fondly.

According to Silva, however, what makes isso vade unique to Sri Lanka is the addition of green chillies and curry leaves (karapincha) into the ground lentil mix. Although karapincha grows in India, Sri Lankan cookery incorporates the leaves into almost every savoury dish, creating a distinctive, zesty aroma. The addition of freshwater prawns to the vade also made sense. Although they are less common than sea water prawns, they are thicker and withstand deep frying much better. A prawn topping also made the vade more visually appealing than a plain lentil patty. The use of chillies, said Silva, is mostly for colour.

“Sri Lankans have always adapted every foreign food that was ever introduced to the island. We like to stamp our own identity on them,” he said. “And we are a nation that eats with our hands, so the gritty texture of isso vade [from the lentils] is very pleasing to Sri Lankans. We also have a culture of sitting outside for early evening chats with friends and neighbours, and vade gave us something to chew on as we did so.”

However, Sri Lanka is in the midst of an economic crisis. With food prices soaring and sellers unable to pass on the costs to customers who will not pay more than a few rupees for street food, many isso vade sellers have seen their profits decrease. While most will turn to alternative means of income, some vow to remain.

Mani, a vade seller on Galle Face, has watched the transformation of Colombo from small city to restless capital from behind his street food cart since 1965. “I was just 13 years old when I started making isso vade at home and selling them to support my family. Now, once expenses are considered, we make only a small profit each month. But I would never consider another trade because if I’m not on Galle Face, my customers will not eat anywhere else. This is something to be proud of,” he told me.

I myself have beloved memories of biting through the crispy exterior, the soft, gritty centre tasting of well-seasoned lentils with the delectable flavour of chopped onions, curry leaves and savoury prawns fried in their shells. It’s incredible to think that vade, in its original form, crossed an ocean with an immigrant community to arrive on this tiny island far from home. No one could have known that this spicy snack would go on to unite Sri Lankans across ethnicities, religion and class as they sit with friends to watch the sun go down.

If this tasty snack can’t survive the enomic crisis, it is not merely a street food and livelihoods that are threatened, but two centuries of history will be lost alongside it.


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Showcasing the epitome of elegance and craftsmanship



Pure Gold by Tiesh has a well renowned Sri Lankan actress Yehali Tashiya Kalidasa as its brand ambassador. She is a multi-faceted young personality who has made her international debut in Pakistani cinema, and perfectly embodies the essence of the Pure Gold by Tiesh brand.

Tiesh, recognized for its exceptional craftsmanship and timeless designs, launched thier latest filigree collection under its subsidiary, Pure Gold by Tiesh. Imported from the best jewellery houses in Europe, Italy, Turkey, and Dubai, this collection features a stunning array of Italian 18-karat jewellery and 22-carat gold pieces adorned with pearls.

The newly unveiled filigree collection showcases a range of breathtaking earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings that exude elegance, dynamism, and vitality. With pieces available in tri-colours, rose gold, white gold, and yellow gold, Pure Gold by Tiesh has curated this collection with careful attention to detail, catering specifically to the wedding season.

Director Thiyasha expressed the brand’s dedication to excellence, stating, “Our jewellery stands out compared to other bridal jewellers. We are deeply invested in every aspect, from design to quality and craftsmanship. Our customers have repeatedly expressed their satisfaction, stating that our collections surpass those of many leading jewellery houses.”

What sets the filigree collection by Pure Gold by Tiesh apart is its versatility, allowing each piece to be worn in multiple ways. With a commitment to inclusivity, Tiesh caters to diverse cultures and ethnicities, offering something for everyone, from beautiful Hindu brides to Muslim brides and traditional Kandian brides.

Director Ayesh De Fonseka elaborated on the collection’s uniqueness, saying, “Each piece is distinct and one-of-a-kind. What’s truly captivating about this collection is its transformative aspect. We are reintroducing our special ring that transforms into a bangle, a design we first introduced in Sri Lanka in 2015.”

The dazzling filigree collection showcases the sheer intricacy and timeless allure of filigree work through an exquisite range. The inclusion of transformative jewellery adds an innovative touch to the collection, setting it apart from Tiesh’s other offerings. Every piece of jewellery from Tiesh is a fusion of traditional and trendsetting elements, allowing customers to express their individual preferences. This exclusivity distinguishes the brand from its competitors, while the meticulous attention to detail adds a touch of modern luxury to each creation.

“We wanted a collection that could complement any look: beautifully paired with your favourite watch, worn as a classic stack of bangles, or simply worn alone for a more subtle appearance,” Thiyasha further added.

The campaign surrounding the filigree collection not only celebrates the grandeur and glamour of modern Sri Lankan women but also pays tribute to the rich culture and bridal market. Tiesh continues to be at the forefront of the jewellery industry, offering exquisite designs that capture the hearts and desires of jewellery enthusiasts worldwide.

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Life style

Fellowship and networking



At the press conference held at the Movenpick hotel, at the head table are Dr. Harsha Jayasinghe, Dimantha Seneviratne CEO/Director of NDB Bank, Shirantha Peiris and other members of the Institute of Hospitality Sri Lanka

Institute of Hospitality Sri Lanka

The Institute of Hospitality, Sri Lanka International branch had their 31st Annual General Meeting recently meeting at Movenpic Hotel Colombo followed by cocktails and fellowship.

This is an annual event, organised by the President Dr. Harsha Jayasinghe and Executive Committee of the Institute.This event is organised for members of the Institute of Hospitality who have shown their dedication and commitment to the tourist industry.

The evening started with a speech from the President of the Institute Dr. Harsha. He spoke about the challenges ahead for the hospitality industry. Sri Lanka is making progress and economy is slowing signs of settling down. There are many tourists to Sri Lanka and this is definitely positive signs for the country said Director/CEO of National Development Bank Dimantha Seneviratne.

It was an entertaining evening with many members of the hospitality industry in attendance. The General Manager of the Movenpick hotel Roshan Perera gave his unstinted support to make a successful event The Chief Guest Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management Shirantha Peiris also spoke

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Denara Eid Durbar



The Denara Vocational Training Institute a subsidiary of the All Ceylon Muslim Women’s Association is for the first time conducting a full day’s programme comprising a mini Eid Bazaar, Sale of items produced by the students of Denara and Cuty Rose and an evening of entertainment. It will be open to the public on Saturday,17th June from 9 am to 5 pm and entrance tickets to the exhibition are priced at Rs. 100/- .

Denara was established in October 2021 where courses in dressmaking, needlework, computer classes, cookery classes and Mehendi Art have been carried out. Despite the economic crisis, and all the challenges endured during these past few years, Denara has been able to still conduct the above classes giving many opportunities to the youth. The Vocational and Training Institute is supported by the All Ceylon Muslin Women’s Association, a reputed charity organization of 70 years history to date!

More than 200 items will be exhibited and available for sale, in addition to bed linen, table linen, cushion covers, cloth bags, and others lovingly crafted with beautiful hand embroidery.

Different to regular exhibitions and sales, a second part is being introduced to the day’s activities where a complete Moghul feel will take over! Ambassador for Turkey Demet Sekercioglu, Ambassador for Turkey in Colombo will grace the exhibition at 4 pm.

A spokesperson from the organising committee said that it will be a festive occasion in keeping with Eid, where an evening of music and games, a fashion show by the students of Denara and Cuty Rose showcasing their creations will be held not only to encourage the talented students who have worked hard to showcase their talents, but also to create an entertaining afternoon. The widely acclaimed Muslim Chorale Choir will make a guest appearance complementing the occasion. The day’s proceedings will conclude with a light dinner where tickets for this are priced at Rs. 3,000/- and already available for sale at the Denara Vocational Training Institute Office located at 191/50, Mangala Gardens, Colombo 5. . Please call on 077 853 9890 for further details.

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