Hoppers are the ultimate Sri Lankan staple. They are usually served for breakfast but can be had in the afternoon as well. There are three kinds of hoppers, two that look like pancakes and another kind that looks like a nest of rice noodles. Sri Lankans love their hoppers and visitors fall in love with them as soon as they have them for breakfast. Hoppers are usually accompanied by a bowl of seeni sambol and pol sambol. Here’s why Sri Lankan hoppers are better than pancakes.
The main ingredients in Sri Lankan hoppers are rice flour, coconut milk, eggs and a little secret ingredient that makes the edges extra crispy. Available in roadside stalls, all hotels and Sen Sal bakeries, hoppers will surely make you happy. If you have experienced hoppers and want to make them at home, you can try this recipe from My Sri Lankan Recipe.
First things first, a hopper is not a hopper unless it’s made in an authentic hopper pan that will give it that special bowl shape and crispy edges. That said, let’s see what goes into the hopper batter to find out why they are better than pancakes. Both rice flour and yeast are mixed with a blended paste of soaked rice and coconut milk. This needs to sit for a few hours until it doubles in size. The secret ingredient, a Marie biscuit, is added to the dry flour before mixing and it helps give the hopper that crunchy, crispy brown edge.
An egg hopper is the same as a hopper, but with a steamed egg on top. These will have a generous sprinkle of ground black pepper on top.
When your dish of hoppers arrives, there will most probably be a mix of both kinds, regular hoppers and egg hoppers. The bowl-shaped hopper is perfect for topping with side dishes. The go-to add-on to any hopper is seeni sambol, a sweet and spicy caramelized onion concoction that captures the hearts of many. Another classic addition to hoppers is pol sambol, which is grated coconut mixed with chilli and lime. For more elaborate hopper meals, there will be some kind of curry. It might be fish or chicken curry in a roasted curry base and juicy coconut milk sauce.
For an even more complete hopper breakfast, there might be an addition of string hoppers, lentil dahl and maybe even some rice and spicy sausage! Hoppers are a base for any delicious Sri Lankan breakfast.
The string hopper is another version. These are little nests of steamed rice flour noodles that have been pressed through a special string hopper extruder. The same side dishes that are served with normal hoppers and egg hoppers are also served with these. There is another juicy addition that goes great with string hoppers: coconut milk potato curry, which is great for serving over the string hoppers and makes them nice and juicy. Sometimes, you can get brown string hoppers made with Kurakkan flour.
The same batter that is used for hoppers is sometimes used to make flat crepe-like pancakes. They are then rolled with grated coconut mixed with coconut treacle and lime. Kids love these. Sweet, soft and crunchy on the inside, one is never enough!