Try it now: Sri Lankan hoppers

The Sri Lankan pancakes are having a moment in London — and you can make them at home, too

Friday, June 8, 2018,
By Lauren Hoffman
Try it now: Sri Lankan hoppers
Photograph by Francesca Turner

The basics
This savoury (or sweet) pancake consists of fermented batter, made from rice flour and coconut milk, fried in a bowl-shaped pan and filled with kari (curry) and sambal (fiery relish). It's a morning staple in Sri Lanka, and a popular street food, where they've been dished up for years — often with a runny egg baked into the base. Texture-wise you can expect perfectly crisp edges and a soft centre to soak up the flavours. Throw in some fresh coconut and fragrant spices and you have yourself a breakfast — lunch, or dinner — of champions. No cutlery required.

The history
The origins of hoppers, also known as appam, are a little mysterious but the late American food writer and historian Gil Marks credited early Jewish settlers in Southern India with the original recipe, dating back 2,000 years. As well as Sri Lanka, appam is also common in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where toddy — a local liquor — is used to leaven the batter instead of yeast.

Try it
Owned by the people behind Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana, Hoppers doesn't take reservations at its original Soho restaurant, and while the food is well worth the wait, impatient eaters can now book tables at the second site in nearby Marylebone, opened last year. On the menu are hoppers both with and without eggs. Fancy making them yourself? Pick up a copy of Weligama (£25, Seven Dials), by ex-Ducksoup chef Emily Dobbs, who spent childhood holidays on Sri Lanka's south coast.

Pancakes go global

Jianbing, China
Resembling a crepe, this Beijing breakfast classic is served folded and filled with fried eggs, pickles, spring onions and coriander.

Pannekoek, Netherlands
Served sweet or savoury, these traditional pancakes are eaten as a main and can measure up to a foot in width.

Dosa, India
A popular South Indian breakfast crepe made with rice and lentil batter, filled with curries and chutneys.

Injera, Ethiopia
Ethiopia's national dish is a spongy, sourdough-risen flatbread resembling a large pancake. It's served topped with stews and salads.

Published in Issue 1 of National Geographic Traveller Food

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