Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sri Lankan Hoppers (Appa)

There are certain foods Sri Lankan people love to get together and eat.  Hoppers (Appa) is one of those type of dishes.  The invitation consists of the host saying, "Come over for a hopper feed" and the guest will come running. .  If you have never had hoppers before, it's best described as a crispy sided crepe.  We make plain and egg hoppers.  An egg hopper is simply a hopper with an egg cooked in the middle.  You usually eat hoppers with a very spicy onion sambal called lunu miris and some sort of spicy meat/egg curry with gravy so you can dip the hopper into it.

 The only catch is hoppers are best eaten "hot-hot" out of the pan. So someone usually acts like the "hopper-cooker" and makes hot hoppers for everyone to enjoy. Then when it's their turn to eat, someone takes over the hopper making so they can enjoy "hot-hot" hoppers too.  Everyone in my family has their favorite textures of hoppers  Some like it thicker in the center with no crispy sides.  Some like most the hopper crispy around the sides with a thin center. Some like their yolks "juicy" and some like their yolks broken.  Can you tell I love hoppers?

Hoppers are pretty easy to do since it consists of making a batter, but you must make it the day before to give it time to develop.  My mother gave me this hopper recipe to share with you today.  It's not the  "traditional" recipe since hoppers were made with coconut toddy to make the batter rise.  My mother uses yeast and beer.  Yes, I said beer.  You do not taste the beer and it cooks out.  The other catch to making hoppers is you must get a proper hopper pan to make the hoppers and you must master the technique of turning the pan to get the hopper to form. It all sound like a lot to remember... but after 3-4 hoppers, it becomes so easy.  The work is all worth it in the end when you see a room full of people with their bellies full and smiles on their faces.

1 cup rice flour
1 cup sooji (semolina/farina flour) 
1 cup beer (room temperature)
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1 and 1/2 cups  warm water (but make 2 cups warm water if more water is needed to form ball)
3 cups warm coconut milk from can or fresh
butter melted to grease pans

Note:  If you do not want to use beer, add 1 tsp more yeast and 1 cup water to substitute. 

For Hopper pans, I recommend a nonstick pan.  You will definitely need one with a lid.  Also it's best if you can get one with a long handle so it's easier to turn and you don't burn your hand from the heat of the stove.  

The day before mix the rice flour with the sooji.  Then take 1/2 cup of warm water and add yeast and sugar to it. Allow yeast to form and become foamy/frothy.   Add yeast mixture, 1 cup water and the 1 cup of warm beer to flour mixture.

Mix well until it forms a ball the consistency of a spongy ball.  If needed add a little reserved warm water to get into a ball. Place in a bowl, cover tightly and keep in a warm place overnight to rise and double in consistency.

 When you are ready to make the hoppers, warm the coconut milk gently (do not over heat and make hot).  Mix the coconut milk with the risen dough until it becomes a smooth batter.  My mother mixes the batter with her hand and makes sure it all smooth.  Taste for salt before proceeding.
 Heat hopper pan on medium.  Grease pan well lightly with some butter (dip a brush into melted butter and apply).  Then add a small ladle of batter (about a 1/4 cup) into the center of the pan.  Give it a few seconds and very slowly tilt the pan around (counter-clockwise) in one complete circle until  the hopper is created.  Place a lid on the pan and cook for a few minutes until the edges start to brown and you can gently insert a spatula to take out of the pan.  The first 2-3 hoppers may not be the best.  But once you adjust the heat to the correct temperature and get the pan going, it will be much easier.

To make the egg hopper, follow the procedure of making the hopper then crack an egg into the center and cook on low heat until the egg is cooked to desired texture.    This batter will make about 25-35 hoppers depending on size (of your pan) and thickness you desire for your hoppers.


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