Hoppers are crispy, bowl-shaped pancakes made with rice flour. They are a traditional hawker street food sold on the side of the road or from a cart attached to a bicycle. Hoppers aren’t easy to make and you have to have a hopper pan to create them. Once mastered, however, they are one of the great traditions of Sri Lankan food.
- 1 large coconut and 750 ml (25 fl oz) water or 750 ml (25 fl oz) coconut milk (see Note)
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) red rice flour (see Note) Chinese rice flour or plain rice flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- 3 eggs
- 4 tsp salt
- 5 tsp sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 45 minutes
If you are making coconut milk from scratch, scrape the coconut using a coconut scraper to remove the flesh and place it in a food processor. Pulse blend until soft. Put the coconut in a bowl, add water and mix well. Extract the coconut milk that results by passing the mixture through a sieve into a container.
Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Add eggs and 400 ml (13 fl oz) of the coconut milk to the bowl and mix well. Cover and leave to stand for 45 minutes. Then add remaining coconut milk, salt and sugar and mix well until the mixture reaches a thick batter consistency.
Heat the hopper pan over a high flame, put 80 ml (3 fl oz) of batter in it and swirl the batter round to coat the sides of the pan. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 1â„2 minutes. Remove hopper from the pan with a spatula when the edges are slightly brown. Place hot hoppers in a cane basket lined with a banana leaf and serve with chicken or fish curry. I tear the hoppers in half and use them as tongs for sambols and curries.
After you put the hopper batter in the pan and turn it around, break an egg into the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and heat over a low flame until the egg is cooked.
To make honey hoppers, add ½ cup honey to half a quantity of batter made by this recipe. In Sri Lanka, these hoppers are eaten as a dessert with bananas.
• Use freshly scraped coconut to make the coconut milk rather than using coconut milk powder. This gives the hopper its true coconut flavour and adds an essential strength to the batter.
• Red rice flour is available in packets from specialty Sri Lankan stores. You can also buy instant hopper mix from Asian supermarkets.
Recipe from Sri Lankan Flavours by Channa Dassayanaka, with photographs by Craig Wood. Published by Hardie Grant Books.