June 19, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:52 pm

Exam season has ended and thesis draft 3 is currently being decimated by my supervisor so, for a rather lovely change this weekend, I had a day off! I think the last time this happened must have been August 2006 (yes, I even taught over Christmas and Easter). Unfortunately, my first days off clashed with one of Goon’s working weekends. This time he was attending Yahoo’s first European Hack Day.

No, I don’t see the appeal either. The good news was that I got a chance to visit my parents properly for a change and spend some time poking around our family home. I’m quite wary of doing this since our house tends to be a bit of a breeding ground for spiders. I’ve never understood the affinity they had for the dark spot under the stairs.

I did find some interesting things. A book of my old poetry for a start, a load of old music  I used to play and some stolen recipe books too. As you might expect, I also raided the cupboards. My parents frequently shop at Sri-Lankan grocery stores so there’s a rather interesting selection of tinned fruit and vegetables. This time, I took some jackfruit because Goon hadn’t tried it before. I also got my hands on what is possibly the best thing about Sri-Lankan cuisine.

 String hoppers

These are string hoppers. A Sri-Lankan staple made from  rice flour dough. The dough is made from just rice flour, water and seasonings  but apparently you need to sift the flour several times and get the mixture just right or the hoppers fall apart or turn sticky.

Once you have your dough, a special hand press with tiny holes is used to press the dough into fine noodles. The raw noodles are allowed to fall onto a holder so they form little round, thin ‘cakes.’  These are then steamed until they are cooked and then eaten with  curries and coconut sambal. As with most carbs, they don’t have a very strong flavour of their own, but they have a marvellous texture. Not chewy, but soft and slightly springy. 

I have been forbidden from trying to make these myself. Apparently it is far too difficult and my parents have hidden the equipment from me :( . These hoppers were bought from a caterer’s shop and are particularly good. I took home enough to feed me and Goon with plenty left over.

When I got back to my flat I made some curries to accompany our hoppers. Firstly, a beef curry with coconut milk and Sri Lankan spicing. It’s not at all traditional to use beef since Sri Lankan Buddhists have some Hindu influences on their culture. Mutton and chicken are usually used, but I quite like curried braising steak.  I also whipped up some dahl with garlic, mild spices and black pepper. We had the jackfruit too, which was flavoured with tamarind.

a lot of sri lankan curry

I dived in, eating in the Sri Lankan way with just my hands. Well, just one hand actually. Like in many other cultures, using your left hand is a no-no. I find eating this way lots of fun. You use the hoppers to grab bits of meat and scoop up the vegetables. Goon looked a little intimidated by this method of eating. Then he went and got himself a knife and fork. I don’t think I’ve ever seen hoppers being neatly cut up before. It was a rather strange and funny sight for me. It’s a bit like watching someone eating fish-fingers with chopsticks!

Then again, a fork is useful for getting the curry soaked hopper pieces from the bottom of the plate.

hopper soaked in curry juice

I love this bit of the meal. :D

Goon really liked the hoppers and was intrigued by the jack fruit. I’d say it is an acquired taste, but I like it, especially in a sour-tangy curry sauce.

So, if you happen to live near a Sri-Lankan store, see if they make and sell string hoppers because I don’t think they’re found in any other cuisine and you’re missing out if you haven’t tried them. They’re definitely my favourite bit of Sri Lankan cuisine.


  1. i’ve never seen string hoppers before! tyler and i have been on a huge rice noodle kick lately. it seems like every time we go out to eat these days it’s for some kind of thai rice noodles. this entire plate looks incredible. i much prefer curries with more indian flavors than thai or chinese, which i would assume sri lankan curries have.

    Comment by amanda — June 19, 2007 @ 11:57 pm

  2. I’ve never heard of those before either! And I am also a huge fan of rice noodles! Must add to my “must eat” list!!

    I am betting your parents hid the noodle making contraption from you because they probably didnt want you to master it first go and steal their thunder! ha ;)

    Comment by Lea — June 20, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

  3. I’d never heard of jackfruit until a few weeks ago then saw it on Asha’s Foodies Hope. This dish looks great! I’m currently kicking myself that I never went to Sri Lanka when I had the chance (when I worked for Kuoni I was given a choice of Sri Lanka or somewhere else and I chose the somewhere else!) What an idiot! I was desperately trying to get away from my Duran Duran days - that is my pathetic excuse!

    Comment by Amanda (Little Foodies) — June 21, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  4. I remember being taught to eat “the Bengali way” with my right hand, while on voluntary work experience at my local Bengali restaurant, Joy in nearby Broadway Market. It was a great experience, and it did make the food taste better (in a strange kinda way)

    Comment by Trig — June 25, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

  5. Oooh, these look like great fun, I’ll be looking out for these!

    Comment by Sophie — June 25, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  6. Hi Amanda. Rice noodles are wonderful, aren’t they? Then again, I love pretty much any type of noodle. You’re right, Sri Lankan curries do bear a strong resemblance to South Indian curries (for quite obvious reaons) but they do have a character of their own. For a start, they can get really hot and the roasted spices and use of rampeh leaf give the curries a unique flavour.

    Hi Lea. I think you might be right there- I don’t believe making these things can be that hard! It sounds like it does require quite a bit of patience though.

    Hi Amanda. Jackfruit is one of those strange fruits where you either love it or hate it. I love it and Goon seems to be the same. Don’t be too disappointed about not living in Sri Lanka… trust me, you won’t regret not having to deal with the bugs they have there! Those things are BIG. It’s definitely a good place to go on holiday though.

    Hi Trig. I agree, eating with your hands does somehow make the food taste better. I still can’t convince Goon to try it though.

    Hi Sophie. I’ll see if Dad knows of anywhere in your area that sells them. If there’s a big Sri Lankan community near you, chances are they’ll have someone who’ll sell them.

    Comment by ros — June 27, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

  7. Ah, the bits at the bottom are the best aren’t they? It reminds me of those little crispy chips that rattle around at the bottom of the bag, picking up the dregs of salt and vinegar - I LOVE those bits!

    Comment by Helen — August 3, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  8. HAHA!

    I can not make it either this delicious string hoppers. My mother says it’s impossible to make, since it has to do with the flour being the difficult issue.

    The press is also hard to get. You have to have a heavy duty press to get your hoppers out nicely and I’m hoping my tamil friends can get some when they import stuff from Sri Lanka.

    Nice page!


    Comment by Gregory — March 27, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  9. Sri Lankan food is something you must try before you die. It is quite possibly the best food every. (Not an overstatement :)

    Comment by Lanka — May 29, 2008 @ 10:23 pm

  10. Sounds good,
    Can someone please tell me how much each of these (or a plate) cost in US dollars. String hoppers, plain hoppers,
    egg hoppers, some other mouth watering breakfast in Sri Lanka.
    I guess if you eat at a five star hotel the prices will be very high.
    How will someone eat these out side of the hotel and not to get caught in the black-market rates.
    Are there good and clean places, where tourists can eat for the same price of the local people.
    What will the prices be if we go with a local person.
    Thanks in advance

    Comment by David Smith — August 13, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  11. Hi,
    Saw your post about string hoppers by chance. Just wanted to mention that string hoppers are not unique to Sri Lanka - they are in South India as well, although not as popular as in Sri Lanka. You should be able to buy the frozen packets of string hoppers from most Indian stores. Put them on a plate, sprinkle some water, and microwave them - they are ready to eat :) Of course not as good as home made, but a decent substitute.

    Comment by VN — June 9, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  12. Oh yes, stringhoppers are a type of food that can be eaten morning, noon or night. The accompaniments generally depend on the time. For breakfast, try the “strings” with just plain coconut soup and maybe coconut sambol, the yellow type.

    As a Ceylonese/Sri Lankan, I enjoy both forms of food, Eastern and Western and luckily here in Australia, we get Asian and/or Sri Laankan grocery outlets in almost every suburb.

    I am giving visitors to my website a free Seafood Extender curry recipe to download. Enjoy

    Comment by Tony — October 4, 2009 @ 6:01 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

In the aid of defeating SPAM Comments, please follow these instructions: