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.
We have one non-stick little wok which works beautifully for hoppers. They’re easy to make for three or four people, but unless you are an expert hopper maker (which we aren’t), they’re not the most practical recipe to prepare when you’re cooking for a crowd, because hoppers are at their best when served fresh and hot, and when you’re making one at a time, it’s hard to make a lot quickly. This being said, they’re a ton of fun to make. If you’re just home from a trip to Sri Lanka, you won’t believe that you’re actually turning out hoppers in your own kitchen.
Hoppers are made with all-purpose flour or rice flour, or a blend; this recipe uses all-purpose flour. The flour is mixed with coconut milk to make a thick batter that we leaven with yeast; in Sri Lanka the batter is often instead soured with toddy, a local liquor.
In Sri Lanka, hoppers are an important food, served commonly for breakfast or late afternoon snack. Little restaurants specialize in hoppers, and even a pub will often have a hopper-maker turning them out for late-night snackers. They’re typically eaten with a variety of spicy sambols (Sri Lankan salsas).
Accompany with a hot salsa.
Yield: Makes 12 to 15 hoppers; serves five or six.
all-purpose flour (325 millilitres)
active dry yeast
warm water (50 millilitres)
canned coconut milk (400 millilitres)
Vegetable oil for surfaces