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Tired of buttermilk pancakes? Feeling like no more crepes?
We’ve got the best Sri Lankan food for you, Hoppers.
Hoppers can be described as crispy pancakes made with a batter of fermented rice flour. It is a perfect choice as an evening snack, or dinner, to freshen up your palate with a novelty of crispy and tangy goodness.
The origin of hoppers is said to be in Kerala, South India. All I can say is, at some point in history, most probably during an invasion, a lovely South Indian immigrant must have secretly handed over the recipe for hoppers to a Sri Lankan woman. And here we are, devouring hoppers almost every day.
Rice is soaked and ground to get the flour, which is made into a runny dough using coconut milk. The traditional fermenting agent used in Sri Lanka is coconut toddy. It acts on the dough faster than yeast. Currently, toddy is only used when home-cooked. Yeast is more convenient, and when used, no significant difference in the flavor is noted.
A huge variety of shapes, fermenting methods, and cooking techniques of making hoppers are found around South India. The typical Sri Lankan hopper is bowl-shaped, with crispy edges and a thick bottom. A specialized pan with a rounded bottom is used to get that shape.
A little portion of the dough is poured into the heated pan and it is rotated in a way that the inner surface of the pan is completely coated, and placed over the stove. Then the excess dough on the walls moves down to form the thick, chewy bottom of the hopper. The thin layers of dough on the walls of the pan are fried to the perfect crisp, which would immediately melt in your mouth.
That’s the plain hopper, and of course, we have variations. My personal favorite is the egg hopper, which is made by cracking an egg onto the bottom of the hopper and sprinkling some salt and pepper over the egg. The runny yolk adds an extra umami infusion to the tanginess of the hopper creating an ideal combo.
Sweet hoppers are also made by simply adding some treacle of choice to the dough. Those hoppers are locally called peni appa which can be literally translated as ‘treacle hoppers’. Having a mouth-watering caramel brown color, they look extremely appetizing and every single bite is a delightful burst of caramelized sweet tanginess.
Hoppers are really good as they are, but with some condiments, it’s a whole new world. Hoppers are traditionally served with chili sambal, a relish of red onions ground with red chili peppers, and Maldive fish flakes with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. It adds a zesty explosion of a sweet, spicy, and umami infusion to every bite of your hopper. Various chutneys and curries also make excellent companions to escort your hoppers to the dinner table.
At last but not least, you are going to need a tip.
Hoppers turn out to be the best when eaten immediately after taking out of the pan. So no time for photographs, my friends. You have to eat.