Stop! Hopper Time!
You sang that didn’t you? I bet you did. *insert harem pants here*
No? Oh well, never mind. TOMORROW IS PANCAKE DAY!! One of the many things I love about living in Britain!
However, this year I thought I’d deviate from the norm by making a Sri Lankan favourite…. Appa! Or the English term, ‘Hoppers’. Not quite sure how it gained that name, but I like it!
So, what exactly is a ‘hopper’? Well, Madhur Jaffery describes them as ‘the love child of crêpe and a crumpet’. It’s a bowl shaped pancake with crispy lace-like edges and a soft spongy middle; the texture not to dissimilar to ‘idli’ (those UFO shaped steamed rice cakes!).
Traditionally they are made from a fermented batter of rice flour and coconut milk, and if you are really old school your raising agent would be palm toddy or crumbled stale bread! Some even use bicarbonate of soda for quicker rise. Though, I opted to use yeast to help the fermentation along.
Hoppers are common in South Indian and Sri Lankan (SL) cuisine; it’s usually a breakfast or dinner grub in SL, and it’s so well loved you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good hopper session!
Sri Lankan cuisine seems to have captured the public’s attention recently, so I couldn’t think of a better time to share this! Hoppers in particular keep incessantly popping up on my social media. From the Pavilion Café in Hackney’s Victoria Park (thanks Heshan for the mouth watering pics!!), to the Hoppers restaurant opening its doors in Soho a couple of months ago (which you many have noticed we visited in December if you follow us on the good ‘ol Instagramzz! Go have a nosy at our walls! 🙂 I think Ang may have fallen in love with a Sri Lankan dessert called Wattalapam… like I needed any more confirmation as to why we are best buds lol! Also, while you are at it have a look at Weligama, a SL pop up on Druid Street, London, set up by chef Emily Dobbs. Girls is doing some serious twists on the traditional hopper, just check out her Instagram!
As you can see you can eat it with anything; I like it with a spicy curry, whilst my Sudu Amma (my Aunt) loves it with a simple Lunu Mirris (literally translated to ‘Salt Chilli’ in Sinhalese). Essentially a hopper is a willing carrier for anything you wish to adorn it, whether it be curries/kari’s, sambols, treacle/jaggery or fruit… really ANYTHING!
Well, lets hop to it then! 😀
I began by mixing the yeast with 1-2tbsps of lukewarm water and the sugar, and left till frothy.
Next I combined 400ml of the coconut milk with the rice flour in a large bowl.I then added the bubbling yeast and the rest of the coconut milk to the rice mixture, and combined till you get a smooth batter.
Once fermented, I stirred the batter till it was smooth again. It should be of double cream (or heavy cream) pouring consistency, or coat the back of a spoon! If your batter isn’t at this viscosity (Ang: ‘Science!’ *fist pump*), you could add a bit more coconut milk or water. Whichever liquid you choose it should be added sparingly, and combined well before proceeding to add anymore. It’s the whole ‘easy to add than take away’ scenario! Though, my aunt will always recommend using coconut milk rather than water.
I heated my hopper pan to a medium heat. If you don’t have a hopper pan, you could always use a small frying pan or wok – you just won’t have the characteristic shape… not to worry, you won’t lose out on flavour!! 🙂
When the pan was hot I poured a ladle of the batter into the centre and immediately swirled the batter around, coating the sides with a even thin layer. Then placed the pan back onto the flame and allowed the excess batter to pool in the middle. I covered the pan with a lid and let this cook/steam for 2-3 mins.
You’ll know when they’re done when the edges begin to brown and crisp, and the middle has risen and is springy yet firm to touch.
Now if you are feeling rather decadent you could have a go at making Egg Hoppers! To do this I cracked an egg into the middle of the hopper, just before covering it up to cook. It make take longer to cook/steam than the basic hopper as the egg white needs to solidify a bit… but keep that yolk runny! I like to season mine with lots of freshly ground pepper (but that’s really Ang’s influence!).
Here you go Ang. For your viewing pleasure. 😛Now, for all you sweet-toothed peeps, you can make ‘Pani (honey) Appa’. To these I added a spoonful of kithul (palm) treacle into the batter and proceeded as normal. However, I found the addtion of more liquid made the batter a bit temperamental in my non-stick pan. I did manage to get a few passable hoppers, but if any of you have better luck with these you will have to let me know the knack of making them!
One last sexy egg yolk action for Ang… tee hee!
- 320g rice flour
- 800ml coconut milk (plus around 200ml extra to loosen the batter if needed)
- 3g dried yeast
- 2tsp sugar
- ½tsp salt
- eggs (optional)
- palm treacle/honey (optional)
- Mix yeast and sugar in 1-2tbsps of lukewarm water, and leave till frothy.
- In a large bowl, mix the rice flour with 400ml of the coconut milk till you get a paste.
- Add the yeast to the rice mixture, then add the remaining coconut milk. Combine well.
- Cover with cling film and leave to ferment for 6-8 hours, or overnight.
- Once fermented, stir the batter till smooth, adding water/coconut milk sparingly to get a double cream pouring consistency. (So that it covers the back of a spoon!)
- Heat your hopper pan to a medium heat.
- Pour a ladle of the batter into the centre of the pan and swirl the batter around leaving the excess to pool in the middle. (If making egg hoppers, crack your egg into the middle at this point!
- Cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 mins.
- Tap the side of your pan and gently slide the hopper out.
- Serve warm.