The curfew cuisine diaries from Sri Lanka goes back in time.
Stringhoppers were a sign of lockdown easing up, Hoppers would be a sign of the virus being beaten altogether. This is why we've got to go back in time...
Let's go back just about a hundred days, or maybe a hundred and twenty days ago when Wuhan was just making its grand worldwide debut and the world was about to change irreversibly. To be honest, we're hardly out of the woods as yet and the "irreversible change" is proving to be as false as horses feathers, but that's another story. But a hundred plus days ago, we still had relatives visiting from abroad. Our AirB'n'B booking were on the up and up and we could have hoppers. And we did.
Hoppers - Appam, in neighbouring India (though their version is pretty different from ours) - is a really hard dish to make. The recipe is simple enough, flour, water, bit of Baking soda left for a few hours and you're ready to go - but the pans the hoppers are made in have to be seasoned really, really well or you're looking down the barrel of a culinary disaster of epic proportions.
It takes years to have a set of excellent hopper pans, no matter what anyone tells you. And no one will tell you how they got their pans seasoned. Not the whole story of it. Everyone will tell you the basics; keep them brimmed with oil, use a wad of cloth to wipe the pan and so on, but follow anyones recommendations and you'll soon realise there's a lot more stuff to do, which you haven't been told about.
The secret of good hoppers - well seasoned hopper pans.
That's why it's easier to have someone come over and cater, if you want to have a hopper feed. Because the other thing about hoppers is that they have to be eaten hot. Straight off the fire hot. Needless to say, since our lockdown and as we approach post-lockdown, getting anyone over to cater is still a huge no-go area.
Hoppers can be had at any time of the day - but dinner would be the most favoured hopper meal, accompanied but a couple pot curries and Sri Lankan style chutneys and sambols.
The hoppers we get here are cooked in a deep dished pan. This means that unlike the Indian Appam, there's a crispy, crunchy ring around the meaty centre of our hoppers. This is your base or plain hopper. The meaty centre is where the magic happens, though. You can drop an egg in there, and it cooks, sunny side up, as an integral part of the hopper - the egg hopper. Or if you want a dessert, drop a dollop of thick coconut milk or even jaggery and you'd have a milk hopper and a jaggery hopper.
Our near and dear ones will eat hoppers with anything. Any type of Jam, Marmalade, Sri Lankan styled chutneys, even granulated sugar or any fresh fruit that happens to be about.
The thing is, no matter what you eat hoppers with, the meal is always delicious. Fully worth a quick trip to the past...