Hoppers (Appam)

Hoppers are soft, leavened stove-top flatbreads, a kind of cross between pancakes and bread, that cook in a wok-shaped pan (hopper maker) to make bowl-shaped bread. The middle area of the “bowl” is thick, with thin, almost frilly edges all round. The bottom of the bread is lightly browned, the top tender and steam cooked. The unusual name is an English adaptation of the Tamil word for rice breads, appa or appam, that is commonly used in Sri Lanka. (In Sri Lanka, there is another kind of hopper, called a string hopper, that is a bundle of steamed noodles made from a similar batter.)

We have a little nonstick wok that works beautifully for hoppers. They’re easy to make for three or four people, but unless you are an expert hopper maker (which we aren’t), they’re not the most practical food to prepare when you’re cooking for a crowd. Hoppers are at their best when served fresh and hot; when you can make only one at a time, it’s hard to produce a lot quickly. This being said, they’re a ton of fun to make: If you’re just home from a trip to Sri Lanka, you won’t believe that you’re actually turning out hoppers in your own kitchen.

Hoppers are made with all-purpose flour or rice flour, or a blend; this recipe uses all-purpose flour. The flour is mixed with coconut milk to make a thick batter that we leaven with yeast; in Sri Lanka, the batter is often soured instead with toddy, a local liquor (see page 310).

Hoppers are an important food in Sri Lanka, commonly served for breakfast or late-afternoon snack. Little restaurants specialize in hoppers, and even a pub will often have a hopper maker turning them out for late-night snackers. They’re typically eaten with a variety of spicy sambols (Sri Lankan salsas).


  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups canned or fresh coconut milk
  • Vegetable oil for cooking


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then sprinkle on the sugar and stir to mix well.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt.
  3. When the yeast is dissolved, add the mixture to the flour, along with the coconut milk, and stir to mix until smooth.
  4. Cover the batter and leave to rise for 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Grease a small wok (or hopper pan), nonstick if possible, and put out a lid for it.
  6. Heat it over medium to low heat. Stir the batter; if it has thickened and is too thick to pour, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water.
  7. Pour ¼ cup batter into the hot wok and immediately lift and tilt the pan to get the batter to flow outward and form a wide circle.
  8. Place the pan back on the heat, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom of the bread is lightly browned (the top will be smooth and steam cooked).
  9. Ease it out of the pan with a flat wooden spoon.
  10. Serve the hoppers hot, as they come off the pan, and lightly oil the pan with an oiled paper towel between each hopper.


Accompany with a sambol or two: Try Sri Lankan Seeni Sambol (page 33) and Coconut Sambol (page 30) for starters.


Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


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Hoppers (Appam)