Hoppers are soft leavened stove-top flatbreads, a kind of cross between pancakes and bread, that cook in wok-shaped pans (hopper makers) to make a bowl-shaped bread. The middle area of the “bowl” is thick, with thin almost frilly edges all round. The name, so unusual to our ears, is an English adaptation of the Tamil word for rice cakes appa or appam, that is commonly used in Sri Lanka.
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour and salt. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and then sprinkle on the sugar and stir to mix well. When the yeast is dissolved, add the mixture to the flour, along with the coconut milk. Stir to mix thoroughly. A batter will form. Cover and leave to rise for 2 to 3 hours.
2. Grease a small wok or hopper pan and put out a lid for it. We use a small non-stick wok, which works very well. Heat it over a moderate to low heat. Stir the batter. If it has thickened and is too thick to pour, add 1 or 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 millilitres) water and stir in.
3. Pour 1/4 cup (50 millilitres) of batter into the bottom of the hot wok and then lift and tilt the pan immediately to get the batter to flow outward and form a wider circle around the bottom of the pan. Place the pan back on the heat and cover with a lid. Cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom of the bread is lightly browned (the top will be smooth and steam-cooked), and then ease it out of the pan with a flat wooden spoon. Lightly oil the pan with an oiled paper towel between each hopper.
4. Serve the hoppers hot, as they come off the pan.