Hoppers are unique to Sri Lanka which are usually consumed either for breakfast or lunch. A regular hopper is similar to a bowl shaped pancake which is crisp at the other edges. Hoppers (appa) are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy. The batter of rice flour and coconut milk traditionally has toddy added for the typical sourish flavour and, more importantly, the fermentation which makes the centres full of little holes like crumpets. If toddy is not available, the same action is duplicated by using yeast, either fresh or dry. After leaving to rise, the batter is swirled in a hemispherical pan, rather like a small, more acutely curved wok. Even without the traditional hopper-pan, it is possible to enjoy the unique texture and flavour using a small omelette pan.
A hopper, crisp on the outside, yet soft and spongy in the centre, is best eaten with curries and sambols while still streaming hot. There are many types of hoppers: plain hoppers, egg hoppers, milk milk hoppers, and sweeter varieties like vanduappa and paniappa.
Egg hoppers are made of the usual hopper where an egg is poached into its centre. Milk hoppers and honey hoppers too are delicacies enjoyed by both locals and foreigners.
Makes about 20
15 g/1/2 oz fresh compressed yeast
or 1 teaspoon dried yeast
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
185 g/6 oz/1 1/2 cups medium-coarse ground rice
185 g/6 oz/1 1/2 cups fine rice flour
or plain (all-purpose) white flour
2 teaspoons salt
400 ml/14 fl oz can coconut milk
500 ml/1 pint/2 cups water
Sprinkle yeast over warm water, stir to dissolve, add sugar and leave for 10 minutes or so. If yeast starts to froth it is active and you can proceed with the recipe. If it has no reaction, start again with a fresh batch of yeast. Put ground rice, rice flour and salt into a large bowl. Combine 300 ml (10 fl oz canned coconut milk with measured water and add yeast mixture. Stir into dry ingredients to form a smooth, thick batter. Allow to stand overnight, or put in a warm (turned off) oven for 1 hour until the mixture rises and froths.
The batter should be of a thick pouring consistency, but thin enough to cover the sides of the pan with an almost transparent coating when the batter is swirled. It will probably be necessary to add extra water. A little practice will tell you when you have achieved the perfect consistency, and so much depends on the absorbency of the flour (which is variable) that it is not possible to give an accurate measurement.
Heat the pan over low heat until very hot, rub the inside surface with a piece of folded paper towels dipped in oil, or spray with one of the light oil or non-stick lecithin-based sprays and pour in a small ladle of the batter. Immediately pick up the pan by both handles, using potholders, and swirl it around so that the batter coats the pan for two-thirds of the way up. Cover pan (any saucepan cover that fits just inside the top edge will do) and cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes. Lift lid and peep. When the upper edges begin to turn a pale toasty colour, the hopper is ready. Where the batter has run down the sides to the centre there will be a little circle of spongy mixture, rather like a crumpet, while the curved edge is very thin, crisp and wafer-like. With a curved slotted utensil or flexible metal spatula, loosen edges and slip the hopper from the pan on to a wire rack. Wipe pan again with oiled paper and repeat. Serve the hoppers warm, accompanied by a hot chilli, Maldive fish and onion sambal or any kind of meat, fish or chicken curry.
Note: The remaining undiluted coconut milk, with a pinch of salt and teaspoon of sugar added, is usually spooned into the centre of the last few hoppers which are made. This is a special treat, known as miti kiri appe or coconut cream hoppers and may be served with shavings of jaggery.
Have ready an egg broken into a cup. As soon as the batter has been swirled to coat the pan, gently slip the egg into the centre of the hopper. Cover and cook as in the Hopper recipe, and the egg will be done to perfection by the time the hopper is cooked. Serve with pepper and salt for grinding over the egg. This type of hopper is generally served with a knife and fork, and a plain hopper which can be rolled up and dipped into the egg.
Hoppers are unique to Sri Lanka which are usually consumed either for breakfast or lunch. A regular hopper is similar to a bowl shaped pancake which is crisp at the other edges. Hoppers (appa) are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy. The batter of rice flour and coconut milk traditionally has toddy added for the typical sourish flavour and, more importantly, the fermentation which makes the centres full of little holes like crumpets.