Sri Lankan Pan Hoppers (aka appam) would have to be my favourite Sri Lankan side dish. Served during the main meal, it’s a coconut flavoured type pancake in the shape of a bowl. When eating; parts of the Pan Hopper can be torn off and used like a spoon or food can be placed directly inside the Pan Hopper, wrapping around like a roti bread. Pan Hoppers are versatile and eaten for either Breakfast or Dinner. Pan Hoppers can also be served with a cooked egg in the centre.
Getting a Pan Hopper to the right thickness, colour and shape is a real skill, and something I am still learning to perfect. Watching others making these can be hypnotic, swirling the batter, tipping the pan and cooking up to a dozen on other burners at the same time is a pretty amazing thing to see.
Recipe for Pan Hoppers
This recipe should make approximately 8 Pan Hoppers
190 Gms Rice Flour
1 Tablespoon Plain Flour
¼ Cup Warm Water
1 Teaspoon Yeast
1 Teaspoon Sugar
400ml Can Coconut Milk
½ to 1 Teaspoon Salt (depending on taste)
- Mix the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl and set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- Place Plain Flour and Rice Flour in bowl and mix for 3 seconds speed 3 MC on.
- Add the yeast mixture and half the coconut milk, mixing for 10 seconds speed 3 MC on to make a smooth paste
- Scrape the bottom of the bowl and repeat 10 seconds speed 3 MC on.
- Remove the MC and loosely place plastic wrap over the hole before returning the MC in place in the lid.
- Leave in a warm place for at least four hours. The paste will begin to ferment, which is part of the resting process.
- When ready to begin the cooking, remove the plastic wrap and add the salt. Mix for 7 seconds, slowest speed MC on.
- Slowly add the remaining coconut milk to the bowl through the lid at the slowest speed, until all the coconut milk is used and the batter matches the consistency of pouring cream.
- Heat your Hopper Pan on medium to low heat.
- Place one ladle of the mixture into the pan and swirl it around so it is thinly covering all the sides of the pan. Ideally the thickness on the sides should be paper thin, the base should be 3 – 4 mm thick.
- Place the lid on the pan and leave cooking for 5 minutes, the Hopper should be brown and crunchy on the edges, puffy and bubbling on the base.
- If cooked properly, the Hopper should easily slide out, keeping its shape; crisp on the underneath and slightly spongy on the upside.
- Allow the pan to cool slightly before starting on the next Pan Hopper.
Tips and Suggestions
- Use only Full Cream Coconut Milk.
- The batter can be refrigerated overnight and used again the next day if you do not use the full amount.
- In cold weather, place the yeast mixture and the paste over warm water to ensure the yeast activates and the batter ferments.
- You can make your own Rice Flour by milling 200 grams of plain long grain rice for 1 minute, speed 9 MC on. My mother in law who has been making these for over 40 years recommends using the McKenzies Rice Flour in the Red Box for the best results.
- If the hopper doesn’t keep its shape when turning out of the pan, the cooking time needs to be increased.
- If available, use a wok burner on low heat which will heat both the base and the sides of the pan at the same time. This will cook the Pan Hopper more authentically.
- Crack an egg into the base before Step 3, reducing the heat slightly to give the egg more time to cook.
- The more the lid is lifted to check on the progress, the longer the Pan Hopper will take to cook, so be patient and practice the timing.
- Hopper pans can be bought online, from ebay or at Indian grocers, they are also named Appam pans.