Anatomy of a Classic

A Sri Lankan Spin on Corn Dogs

Kentucky’s Sam Fore imbues South Asian flair to a classic party bite

A tablescape of colorful glass plates with mini corn dogs and sauce for dipping, plus decorative toothpicks


Sam Fore is an unlikely evangelist for Sri Lankan food. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, to Sri Lankan parents, she grew up in North Carolina and went to college in Boston, planning to become a doctor like her father. That idea then morphed into a marketing career.

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She moved back to Lexington in 2012, and in one of those twists of fate, began making websites for high-end restaurants, sometimes bringing them a welcome taste of her own cooking. That led to informal brunch gatherings at her home, and she began to see the potential in merging Southern ingredients with the Sri Lankan food she loved to make with her mother, Indra.

Fore started a pop-up series in 2016 that spread nationally, along with her reputation as a hardworking, creative cook dedicated to making the restaurant industry more equitable for women and people of color. This past September, she opened her first brick-and-mortar, Lexington’s Tuk Tuk Snack Shop. “I call Sri Lankan food the love child of Indian and Thai food,” Fore says. “I make what I grew up eating and then mix in everything we raise in Kentucky.”

At Tuk Tuk, she serves a grilled cheese with tamarind caramelized onions, and a house-made hoagie roll with curried pulled pork, pickled carrots, and coconut gravy. Also on the menu: her take on a classic corn dog, which she coats in a spicy lentil batter punched up with curry leaves and onion, inspired by an enduring fried Sri Lankan snack fritter called vadai. It’s a winning invention. The lentils in the batter bring a deeper flavor than the traditional corn-dog coating, and the crunch is a particularly nice counterpart to the good old American hot dogs she puts in the center (Fore’s favorite is Nathan’s).


Here, she’s adapted the dish as a party bite. Slice each hot dog into four mini dogs, then coat with the batter. She uses two kinds of dal in the batter mix, split lentils and chickpeas, which are easy to find online or at markets with a good selection of South Asian ingredients. After a soak in water, the dal and spices get processed just until they form a dough.

You can fry the dogs in oil on the spot or store them in the freezer until you’re ready to start cooking. Fill a bowl with sweet chili sauce for dipping, add a sprinkle of crunchy salt and a few toothpicks, and the party is on. “As far as I’m concerned,” Fore says, “Sri Lankan cuisine is really about finding the perfect bite.”


  • Vadai Corn Dog Bites (Yield: About 30)

    • 1 cup split moong dal (lentils), or yellow split peas

    • 1 cup yellow chana dal (chickpeas)

    • ½ serrano pepper

    • ½ medium yellow onion

    • 2 or 3 curry leaves (fresh is best; if using dried, let the dough sit for half an hour)

    • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

    • 2 tsp. kosher salt

    • ½ tsp. black pepper

    • 1 package hot dogs (Fore prefers Nathan’s)

    • Oil for frying (any vegetable oil)

    • Prepared sweet chili sauce (Fore prefers Mae Ploy)


  1. Combine the 2 dals, place in a bowl, and cover with 3 inches of water. Refrigerate and soak for at least 4 hours. Drain and rinse well, making sure the water runs clear. It’s important to remove as much water as possible.

  2. Remove ¼ cup of the dal and reserve. Place serrano pepper, onion, and curry leaves in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to chop. Add dal and spices, and pulse until a soft dough forms, about 90 seconds, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Don’t overmix. Put the dough into a separate bowl, add in the reserved dal, and mix well with a spoon.

  3. Cut each hot dog into 4 pieces. To form the fritters, press a heaping teaspoon of dough into your palm, add a hot dog piece, and top with another teaspoon or more of dough. Form the dough around the hot dog, taking care to squeeze out any extra moisture. Using 2 tablespoons to press the dough around the fritter as if you were making a quenelle is helpful. Be careful not to make the coating too thin. It should be about the thickness of a traditional corn-dog coating.

  4. Fill a large saucepan or wok with 3 or 4 inches of oil and heat to 325°F. Fry the fritters in batches for about 6 or 7 minutes. Drain on a rack over a sheet pan or paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with a bowl of sweet chili sauce for dipping.

  5. TIP: You can make the fritters ahead of time and freeze. Place them on a sheet pan in the freezer for at least an hour, then store in a ziplock bag or other airtight container. Fry from frozen, adding 2 to 3 minutes to the cooking time.


Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky



Ritual for blessing her new restaurant: Boiling milk in a clay pot from Sri Lanka until it overflows, which symbolizes prosperity. “It makes me feel good, and it makes my family feel good. It contributes to a mindset.”



What she would make to introduce someone to Sri Lankan food: Hoppers, which are thin, lacy-edged fermented rice pancakes, along with coconut sambal to “rip and dip.”



What she would save if the kitchen were on fire: “The little things I would have to get from Sri Lanka, like hopper pans.”



Pets: Four rescue dogs and two cats.