This is a recipe for string hoppers, which are made from a hot-water dough of rice meal or wheat flour. This is pressed out in circlets from a string mould onto little wicker mats, then steamed. Light and lacy, string hoppers make a mouth-watering meal with curry and sambol. Fresh pol sambol is great with everything and is served with nearly every meal. We used to wait until the hot bread arrived from the bakery next door and then put a big spoonful of it on the hot bread.
- 450 g wheat flour or rice flour (see note)
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small green chilli, halved lengthways
- 4-6 fresh curry leaves
- 2 cm piece pandanus leaf
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp Maldive fish flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) thick coconut milk
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 60 g bombay onions
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Maldive fish flakes
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp paprika powder (see note)
- 1 large fresh coconut, scraped, or 100 g desiccated coconut soaked in 100 ml water (see note)
- 1 lime, juiced
- salt, to taste
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.
To make the string hoppers, wrap the flour in a clean cloth and place in a bamboo steamer for 1 hour. While hot, transfer to the jug of a blender to break it up. Sift the steamed flour into a bowl.
Bring 500 ml water to the boil. Transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.
Add salt and hot water to the steamed flour. Work it with your hands until a soft dough forms. Squeeze out the dough onto wicker mats, making an even double layer. Stack the mats on top of each other and steam for 3-5 minutes.
To make the kiri hodi, place all the ingredients except the coconut milk and lime juice into a heavy-based saucepan. Add 1 cup water and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes or until the onion softens.
Add the coconut milk, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes (do not let the mixture boil). Remove from heat, season to taste with salt. Add the lime juice.
To make the coconut sambol, in a large mortar and pestle, grind the onions. Add the peppercorns and Maldive fish, and crush well. Stir in the chilli and paprika and work until a coarse paste forms. Add the coconut and pound together, so the coconut and paste are thoroughly combined.
Gradually add the lime juice and season with salt.
• String hopper moulds and mats are available from Sri Lankan grocers.
• My choice for the string hoppers is wheat flour; though you have to steam the flour first. Using rice flour gives you a basic rice noodle in a different shape.
• I have used paprika solely to give the sambol a rich red colour; you can use more red chilli if you prefer it very hot. The sambol is supposed to be an orangey red colour.
• Fresh coconut should be used in this recipe, as dry or desiccated isn't as juicy. When we arrived in Australia in 1979, it was very hard to get a fresh coconut, so we used to reconstitute the desiccated with some warm water. It’s not as good as fresh, but is acceptable.