The Vegetarian


Hoppers (Appa or Appam)

- Sri Lanka

500g rice flour
400ml of coconut cream
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
7g of dry yeast
water (room temperature)

Place rice flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in a couple of tablespoons of water and pour over the flour.

Add water a little at a time and mix into the rice flour mixture until you have a slightly runny batter.

Cover the mixture and leave somewhere warm (not hot) to allow it to rise.

After a few hours (time depends how warm the environment is - warmer weather = less time to rise) the batter will have risen and look like dough.

Add the coconut cream gradually, stirring it in, until the the batter is liquid again (to pancake batter consistency). If after 400ml of coconut cream you need more liquid then use some water.

Heat a "hopper pan" (small wok approx 15cm diameter) and lightly oil. Non-stick pans like that shown in the picture are not so good for this, the old fashioned type are much easier! Non-stick pans tend to lead to the mixture all sliding down and not staying up on the sides like it should.

Pour a ladle-full of batter into the hot pan and tilt and swirl the pan until the mixture coats the sides. Cover and wait (approx 2minutes). The aim is to get a crisp golden skirt around the sides of the pan, but a fluffy soft ball in the centre. Taste test the first one and add a little more salt to the mixture.  Adjust the flame and the consistency of the batter until the mixture sticks the way it is supposed to.

This specialty recipe requires a bit of trial and error before you get the hang of it, and sometimes a little experimentation with various pans.

Egg Hoppers

-use a little less batter, trying to get the batter to stick to the sides of the pan and not to leave much in the centre. Add an egg to the centre before placing the lid on the pan. This will lead to a hopper with a sunny side up egg in the centre of a crisp skirt.

A meal of hoppers usually consists of one egg hopper and 3 or 4 plain hoppers for each person, and is usually eaten with sambals.

 Hopper served with an onion and tomato sambal.

 String Hoppers (Indhiappa or Indiappam)

String hoppers take some time and some very specific equipment to make perfectly. They should be very soft and not at all sticky or tacky when made well.

If you want to try a much easier and quicker "cheat", boil and drain some Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles "Bee Hoon". These have a very similar flavour and texture to white rice string hoppers.


String hopper press
String hopper steaming rounds/plates
Steamer/large pot with steaming insert

Rice flour - white or red
Boiling hot water
+/- salt

First the Rice flour must be dry toasted. Use a large flat based pan (doesn't need to be nonstick). Don't add any oil. On medium-high heat, continuously stir the flour for about 10 minutes to essentially dry the flour out and slightly toast it. You don't want any colour change.

Then place this flour in a large bowl and add boiling water. Begin with water about half as much in quantity as the flour. Stir it in straight away. Keep adding water and mixing until you create a paste. It should be about the consistency of playdough.

Fill a stringhopper press with the mixture and squeeze strings onto the rounds in a circular motion.
You can see in this photo the traditional stringhopper press and plastic steaming rounds.
However, you can get more modern stainless steel string hopper presses at Indian grocery stores.

Arrange the rounds in a steamer and steam for about 10 minutes until fully cooked. When fully cooked they should peel off the steaming rounds easily. At this stage you can pull them all off, and squeeze more rounds for another batch of steaming.

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