Recipe: Sri Lankan hoppers

Hoppers can be sweet or savoury, but they're always yummy.
Aaron McLean

Hoppers can be sweet or savoury, but they're always yummy.

Hoppers (appam) are a traditional breakfast food in Sri Lanka that can be sweet or savoury. I love them savoury with an egg, and have given recipes for three different accompaniments, all of which can be made in advance. You could choose to make just one or two, or serve the hoppers with all three. I'm not going to lie – they can be a little tricky to get right.

After many attempts, I've gone with an adaptation of a Charmaine Solomon recipe that uses self-raising flour. I make these with a hopper pan – a small wok-like pan with a lid. You can buy non-stick versions from (or at 3/875 Dominion Rd in Auckland). Otherwise use a small (20cm) non-stick frying pan. They need to be eaten immediately after making.

Serves 6 / Preparation 70 minutes / Cooking 3-4 minutes per hopper

For the hoppers

¾ cup lukewarm coconut water or water (plus extra ¼-½ cup)
2 teaspoons active dried yeast
2 teaspoons white sugar
¾ cup coconut milk
60g (½ cup) rice flour 
50g (⅓ cup) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for greasing the pan
6 eggs, if using

Mix together the coconut water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl, stir to dissolve and set aside for 10 minutes or until it starts to froth. Add the coconut milk, flours and salt. Whisk to a smooth batter the thickness of lightly whipped cream. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour or until the mix has doubled in size. It will have thickened – start adding a little extra coconut water to make it the consistency of a very lightly thickened pouring cream.

Use a lightly oiled paper towel to grease the pan and set over medium-low heat. Add a small ladleful of batter and swirl the pan so the batter coats the pan up around the side. 

If adding an egg, break one gently into the base of the pan. Cover the hopper with a lid and cook for 3 minutes. Use a thin spatula to remove the hopper. Repeat with the remaining batter and serve immediately.

Seeni sambol (Makes about 1½ cups) 

This chilli-spiked caramelised onion sambol keeps well in the fridge for a week or so. Adjust the chilli flakes as you like as the heat increases the longer it sits.

Ad Feedback

2 tablespoons sunflower oil 
3 red onions, sliced 
1 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs curry leaves (about 20 leaves)
2 pandan leaves, tied in a knot (optional)*
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3cm piece ginger, peeled, grated
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 tablespoons tamarind puree
2 tablespoons brown or white sugar

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion gently with the salt for 10 minutes or until softened. Add the curry leaves, pandan leaves, if using, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, cardamom and cinnamon and cook slowly for 10 minutes, covering with a lid and stirring occasionally. Add the tamarind and sugar and cook for another few minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and remove the pandan. Set aside to cool.

Fermented pineapple salsa (Makes 1 x 300ml jar)

This is also a good addition to the corn tortillas on page 104. It's based on a recipe from Melbourne cafe Cornership

½ pineapple, skin and core removed, cut into 5mm dice
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
½ chilli, finely chopped
½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
1½ teaspoons sea salt

Combine all the ingredients and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Put into a clean sterilised jar, pushing down to remove any air bubbles. Cover with a lid and sit on the bench for 2 days to ferment before storing in the fridge until ready to use.

Coconut gravy (kiri hodi) (Makes about 200ml)

There are two ways to make this – you can soak the fenugreek seeds overnight, drain, then make as per the recipe without having to leave it overnight ; or you can make it as I have done and allow the finished gravy to sit overnight before using. The fenugreek will lose its bitterness and thicken the sauce, and this is my preferred method. For a more substantial gravy, add ¼ cup split red lentils when you add the coconut milk. If it gets a little too thick, loosen with some water.

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 sprig curry leaves (about 10 leaves)
1 cinnamon stick
1 pandan leaf, tied in a knot*
400ml can coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime

Heat the sunflower oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, fenugreek, turmeric, curry leaves, cinnamon and pandan leaf. Fry for another 2-3 minutes, then add the coconut milk. Simmer very gently until reduced by half – around 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice. Allow the flavours to infuse overnight, before reheating gently, adjusting seasonings and adding more lime juice if necessary.

*Look for frozen pandan leaves at Asian food stores.

WINE: a perfumed, lush gewürz – go for the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum Gewürztraminer 2016.



 - Cuisine

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback