Curry is one of the nation’s favourite dishes; a rich, fragrant serving of meat or vegetables, traditionally served on rice and soaked up with naan. It certainly makes for a good, hearty meal, but for customers looking for the flavour of a curry but in a lighter meal – what are their options?
In a new series of blogs for 2017 we’re bringing food operators the latest trends for the on-the-go food market. From Acai bowls and Poke, to Bao burgers and rolled ice-cream – we’ll be taking a close look at the must-have dishes essential for any 2017 take-out menu; and we’ll be exploring why these dishes have risen to popularity so quickly.
Well, a new dish called a Hopper is being served – and it’s labelled ‘the lighter way to eat a curry’. A Sri Lankan food, Hoppers are made from fermented rice and coconut batter cooked to a spongey bowl-shaped pancake. Unlike traditional pancakes a hopper is filled with a Sri Lankan curry (karis), spicy relishes (sambals), and often an egg baked into the base.
Hoppers can be served as an exotic breakfast, a weekend brunch or a light lunch.
Hoppers – street food and casual dining
Hoppers are a perfect street food concept: unique, taste-driven and internationally influenced. Chef Emily Dobbs was one of the first to serve Hoppers in London, from her street s tall, Weligama, at London’s Druid Street market. In an interview by Leah Hyslop in The Telegraph in 2016, Emily comments “Hoppers are fun and a bit different, you can eat them with your hands, wrapping the whole thing up. They’re like a healthy burger – for those who don’t mind a bit of dribble!”
A casual dining restaurant aptly named Hoppers, owned by the Sethis – the family restaurateurs behind London’s award-winning Gymkhana and Trishna; serves hoppers with an egg fried into the bottom, alongside dishes of caramelised onion relish, coriander chutney and a mince of fresh ground coconut, smoked fish, onions and red chillies.
The rise of Asian food
Casual dining restaurants continue to shake up the restaurant scene by offering top food in relatively inexpensive surroundings. In the Evening Standard, restaurant critic Fay Maschler predicted that the success of casual dining restaurants like Bao, Hoppers and Jidori would encourage ‘more niche Asian food’.
The website for Hoppers in London helpfully provides a list of Sri Lankan and Tamil Nadu food terms that you might see popping up on menus in 2017:
- Arrack – a Sri Lankan spirit distilled from the sap of the coconut flower and matured in vats made from teak or Hamilla trees
- Brinjal Moju – aubergine pickle
- Chukka – fragrant and spicy, semi-dry masala from Tamil Nadu
- Dosa – pancake made from a fermented lentil and rice batter
- Genever – the precursor to English gins, as well as being the origin of the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’
- Gotu Kola Sambol – pennywort relish with coconut, Maldive fish and onions
- Hopper (or Appam) – bowl shaped fermented rice and coconut milk pancake
- Idli – steamed rice cakes
- Kari – the Tamil term for Curry
- Kiri Hodi – a mild coconut milk gravy from Sri Lanka, cooked with fenugreek and Maldive fish
- Maldive Fish – sun dried bonito
- Podi – coarse spicy powder mix of ground dry spices and seeds
- Pol Roti – grilled coconut roti
- Pol Sambol – Sri Lankan relish made with fresh ground coconut, Maldive fish, onion & red chilli
- Rasa – gravy
- Seeni Sambol – a Sri Lankan caramelised onion relish
- String Hopper (or Idiyappam) – steamed handmade rice flour noodles pressed into string pancakes
- Varuval – a classic Chettinad dish
- Kothu – a Sri Lankan street dish made with a finely chopped roti cooked with vegetables, meat or seafood
- Goraka – a sour dried berry commonly used in Sri Lankan curries
- Kaapi – Tamil Nadu term for coffee
So how easy are Hoppers to make? Well, it’s not a traditional pancake, but you can source ready-made hopper mix which is available in some ethnic shops. Then you need a non-stick pan, the professionals use an appachatti.
In an online feature in The Guardian called ‘Spice hoppers: The recipe for a Sri Lankan breakfast feast’ – Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter give a recipe and method for making egg hoppers from scratch:
- 100ml coconut water
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 300ml coconut milk
- 200g brown rice flour
- 100ml soda water
- A large pinch of salt
- 6-8 eggs
- Rapeseed oil
- Heat the coconut water until tepid. Whisk in the yeast and sugar, then leave to stand for 15 minutes. Mix with the coconut milk, then pour it into the rice flour in a large bowl. Whisk until you have a smooth batter. Cover with cling film and leave overnight.
- Add the soda water to the bowl and whisk well. Season with salt. Leave to stand for an hour before using. It should be thinner than a traditional pancake batter.
- Traditionally, the hoppers are cooked in a small, high-sided wok, but you can use a non-stick frying pan instead. Heat your pan, then, as it heats, dip into the oil with a piece of kitchen roll or cloth and use it to briskly rub around the pan. Slowly pour a ladleful of the batter into the pan, tilting it so the batter cooks up the edges of the pan and is distributed in a thin layer.
- Quickly crack an egg into the base of the pan and cover. Leave to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the egg is just cooked and the edges of the pancake are starting to brown. Run around the edges with a palette knife and ease on to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and eggs. Any extra can be saved or cooked plain, without eggs.
- Serve with sauces.
Gluten, dairy and meat free
As customers continue to purchase food options that deliver health and diet benefits, many are voluntarily avoiding certain food types like gluten, dairy or meat. Made from rice and coconut batter, Hoppers are generally gluten and diary free, and vegetarian curries, sauces and sides can be used to create a totally meat-free dish.
How to serve Hoppers in style
Using cutlery is as unacceptable as eating a burger with a knife and fork: hoppers are designed to be rolled up like a taco and eaten with your hands.
So no plastic cutlery required – but if you’re customers are intending to eat the Hopper on-the-go, then you’ll need to provide a heatproof box with a lid, portion pots for sauces and plenty of napkins for spillages on-route.
For serving in a casual dining environment, why not try a disposable palm leaf plate, and a ready supply of Kraft napkins – for a natural, down-to-earth feel?
Disposable Palm Leaf Square Plate Kraft Napkins
Images sourced from: https://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2016/05/sri-lankan-egg-hoppers-breakfast.html