My mother made a few dishes that she really likes, and which are specialties of Jaffna cuisine, this weekend so I will be sharing the recipes of those this week.

Today’s recipe is that of vadaham, a sun-dried and fried side dish made of some special ingredients. Vadaham is usually made in bulk during sunny days and preserved to be eaten over a long period. There are a few varieties of vadaham, the more popular ones made of neem flowers (vepampoo) or banana flower (valaipoo). The neem tree is considered one of the most medicinal trees and the flowers particularly good for diabetics.

My mother tells me that she learnt how to make vadaham by observing her aunt (my grand-aunt) making them. My grand-aunt was fond of the neem flower vadaham and she had mats placed around the neem tree at my grandmother’s house to collect the tiny flowers that fell off the tree. The flowers were then rinsed and dried before being used to make the vadaham.

The recipe I am sharing below is my grand-aunt’s recipe that my mother occasionally uses when she feels like making vadaham.


Time taken: 30 mins + the soaking time for the urad dhal + sun-drying of the vadaham

Makes 12 – 15


  • Banana flower – ½ cup, finely chopped
  • Urad dhal/ black gram – ½ cup
  • Crushed chillies – 1 tsp
  • Crushed onion – 1 tbsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Pepper – ½ tsp
  • Salt, to taste
  • Oil, for deep-frying


  1. Soak the urad dhal for about 3 hours and then drain and grind the dhal.
  2. Mix the finely chopped banana flowers with the ground urad dhal in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add to the mixing bowl the crushed chillies, onion, cumin powder, turmeric as well as pepper and salt to taste.
  4. Mix well and then make small, circular disks of ‘vadaham’.
  5. Sun-dry the ‘vadaham’ for 2 or 3 days and then bottle them in an air-tight jar. If you do not plan to make in bulk and are preparing the side dish for a meal within that day, you can omit the sun-drying part and directly make instant vadaham by moving on to the next step as my mother did this weekend. Some also prefer to simply use the sun-dried version directly without frying them.
  6. When you wish to serve them, simply deep-fry the required number and serve warm with rice and some curd and pickle.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.


4 thoughts on “Vadaham

    • Thank you, Laura. I find the banana flower vadaham delicious while the neem flower vadaham is an acquired taste that I am yet to acquire though it is a favourite of my mother. Either one, but more commonly the neem flower vadaham, would accompany a traditional lunch in the northern most district of Sri Lanka.

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