Whenever I go on a trip I think before I even leave what I will write. What seems important to the country, what do I have to write (yup, we are there!), and what will pop up unexpectedly on the way. I usually like to ease my readers into a destination just like I would ease into it as well. Especially if it is a completely new country, I like to approach it gently and with care, I am not one for jumping in I must admit. I don’t know anything yet, haven’t gotten much more than a first impression and as I mentioned in this post – words matter – so I like to get my story straight first before I share it.
Well, that is the idea at least. Then there are the times when I find myself crying over breakfast because I know that in exactly 11 days I won’t be eating the best breakfast of my life anymore and what then? What can be a good enough reason to get me out of bed? So here we are, no easing into Sri Lanka, I want hop right in and talk about hoppers with you!
When I wrote my foodie bucket list, Sri Lanka wasn’t on it. I had no idea what Sri Lankan food was going to be about. Curry maybe? Tea! I was hoping for some mangos because the ones in Germany are simply dreadful and so expensive. But I still asked – what should I add on my bucket list from Sri Lanka? The answer I got more than any other was “hoppers”! I was puzzled – what were these illustrious things with the funny name that everybody seemed to love? Nobody told me until I got to Galle and saw them on the breakfast menu of the Amangalla.
I have a good track record with local breakfasts. While I usually never eat breakfast at home (and don’t say anything, science has proven I am okay even without!), I have had a few times where I arrived at a new destination just in time for breakfast. And honestly, if you are scared of local foods and spices and street food in particular, what could be better than to get accustomed to it in a really nice hotel. So when my tired eyes saw the words “string hoppers” on the menu I went for it.
String hoppers are basically little steamed pancakes made out of something that looks like vermicelli noodles. You top it for example with dahl and coconut sambal and there is no way, at least not for me, to eat them gracefully with my hands and so I resorted to using knife and fork. They were delicious and I proudly posted my picture of them under the comments. But now you gotta have egg hoppers! and Where are the egg hoppers? That’s what I got in return. Thanks, guys!
Luckily the advantage of arriving for breakfast time at a hotel is you get to do breakfast again next day. This time, a little less tired, I skimmed the menu a bit closer and found them: “egg hoppers”. They even came with a choice of chicken or fish curry and by now I started to realize that my problem with breakfast may not be the time of the day, but with the option of usual breakfast ingredients. I liked curry any time of the day so why not have it for breakfast? I had long gotten over my notion that there are appropriate times for certain foods or others and liked that newfound freedom (which usually entailed eating noodles all day long!).
Hoppers are made out of fermented dough from rice flour, coconut milk, and spices. What honestly sounds a bit odd I think turns into the yummiest little bowls of soft and crispy dough which are either pan-fried or steamed.* Add an egg to make it an egg hopper and you are set to go. Add your curry – because you can! – and sambals and you have a breakfast for champions at hand. It’s definitely not for those people who like to have ‘just a little bite’ or ‘something light for breakfast’ but I have never been one of those to begin with.
This morning, I have moved on to the Fort Bazaar Hotel just down the road, I was so excited to see hoppers on the menu again, you’d assume I hadn’t eaten in days. And curry! Man, I was happy. Even happier when it came because not only does the hotel get the setting right, modern Moroccan with hipster-ish wooden boards, but the curry was honestly the best I have ever had. Maybe I have been just eating curries during the wrong time of the day all my life, I don’t know, but curry of my dreams – where have you been all my life??
I did ask the waiter how to eat my hoppers as I wasn’t doing a very good job at being graceful and not drip, however, his answer – with your hand slightly rolled/folded up – made me think I just need practice. Which is great because that means more hoppers for me. After all, I still got 11 days to go!
So, if you are traveling to Sri Lanka and looking for ways to get inspired before and get accustomed to a new place once you are here, I think this is it. Find yourself a nice place to eat, order a place of hoppers and just know – this is Sri Lanka. Sometimes there is just no better way to ease in than to hop along…
*Thanks Wiki for making me hungry and drool again!