Among the many treasures offered from the pearl of the Indian ocean Sri Lanka, hoppers is that one dish which stands out for its unique flavours and captivating aromas. This delightful culinary creation has captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and travellers alike, becoming a symbol of the country’s vibrant food culture.
Sri Lankan hoppers, known locally as “appa” or “appam,” are a traditional dish that represents the fusion of indigenous ingredients and the influences of various cultures that have touched the island over centuries. Hoppers are made from a batter consisting of rice flour, coconut milk, and a hint of sugar, lending them a subtly sweet undertone. This mixture is allowed to ferment, which imparts a distinct depth of flavor to the final product.
What truly sets hoppers apart is their unique shape and texture. Cooked in a specialized concave pan, hoppers take on a bowl-like appearance, with a thin, crispy outer edge and a soft, spongy center. These variations in texture, from the crispiness around the rim to the tenderness in the middle, offer a delightful contrast that adds to the overall sensory experience.
Varieties to Savor: From Plain to Egg and Beyond
Sri Lankan hoppers come in several delicious variations, each with its own twist on the classic base. The plain hopper, often called “vella appa,” is the simplest version, allowing the natural flavors of the rice flour and coconut milk to shine through. Then there’s the “egg hopper” or “egg appa,” where an egg is cracked into the center of the hopper as it cooks, creating a rich and indulgent treat. There are more modern fusion hoppers like cheese and chilli, Nutella, chocolate and strawberry, milk hoppers to name a few.
Pairing with Perfection: Sambols and Curries
No hopper experience is complete without an array of accompaniments that elevate its taste to new heights. Sri Lankan cuisine is renowned for its vibrant curries and sambols—spicy, tangy, and sometimes even sweet condiments that add layers of flavor to each bite. Coconut sambol, made with grated coconut, red onions, chili, and lime, is a popular choice. Other curries, ranging from fiery chicken or fish curries to mellow dhal (lentil) curries, are often served with hoppers, creating a symphony of flavors that dance on the palate.