Showstopper hoppers with curries and sambols: O Tama Carey’s Sri Lankan spread – recipe | Life and style

My love of hoppers is a well-established truth. Long earlier than I opened Lankan Filling Station, each journey to Sri Lanka inevitably become a mini hopper pilgrimage. I watched them being made, I questioned their makers and infrequently somebody would let me on to their pans to aim a hopper swirl.

Despite this borderline obsession, I had solely actually tried to make them from scratch as soon as, with my nan in Perth. On reflection, it may need been a good suggestion to nail a recipe earlier than committing to opening a restaurant.

When it got here time to make my very own recipes for LFS (or The Hopper Shop, because it was recognized then), the primary check was with an prompt hopper combine; they really weren’t too unhealthy, which was encouraging. I then examined model after model, till we lastly settled on our present recipe.

Once I had conquered the recipe, we arrange a market stall, our first foray into really cooking and promoting hoppers to actual individuals. It was a pleasant straightforward entry; the hoppers got here out properly and we in all probability solely made about 50 over just a few hours.

Chef O Tama Carey on her restaurant opening: ‘The fear of that night will always stay with me.’
Chef O Tama Carey on her restaurant opening: ‘The fear of that night will always stay with me.’

However, this was carefully adopted by one of many worst kitchen experiences of my life.

Half an hour earlier than opening a pop-up at a good friend’s bakery, with a queue of about 40 individuals out the entrance, we began to check the batter. The hoppers weren’t popping out very properly and loads had been sticking. Then two of our six burners determined to not work, carefully adopted by a 3rd. Meanwhile, an increasing number of individuals had been becoming a member of the queue. There was a way of doom within the air when it was time to open the doorways.

It was like a foul dream. We had been managing about one good hopper from each three, and even they had been sluggish going. The final batch of individuals to reach didn’t even get one hopper.

We had already dedicated to doing it once more, so we needed to pull ourselves collectively. We received some higher burners (ones that truly labored) and a few non-stick pans (up till then I’d been utilizing conventional aluminium ones that should be seasoned accurately with good batter to work). I seemed on the batter recipe, which for some purpose I’d tried to tweak, and went again to the unique. We made it by means of, rather more efficiently, however the concern of that first evening will all the time stick with me.

Hopper pans, available from Sri Lankan or Indian grocers – or online.
Hopper pans, obtainable from Sri Lankan or Indian grocers – or on-line. Photograph: Anson Smart

To get consistency now, we ferment our hopper batter slowly within the fridge. Apart from the occasional rogue dough, it behaves itself lately.

Here’s a set of recipes for a standard hopper meal, which works for breakfast or dinner. To get pleasure from, tear, dip, and scoop your hopper into the yolk, the varied curries, and sambols. Use it in the identical approach you’ll a roti or bread.

Prawn curry

I’ve typically discovered that the time it takes a prawn to soak up sufficient flavour from a curry sauce doesn’t tally with its optimum cooking time. At LFS we get round this by making the curry base and letting it cool, then including the prawns and letting them have a superb soak within the sauce in a single day. From there it’s only a matter of cooking them briefly the subsequent day.

Prawn curry – shown here with a variety of other accompaniments to O Tama Carey’s hopper
Prawn curry – proven right here with a wide range of different accompaniments to O Tama Carey’s hopper. Photograph: Anson Smart

Serves 6–8

For the curry powder
5g curry leaves
24g candy paprika
20g chilli powder
20g coriander seeds
15g white peppercorns
13g chilli flakes
12g cumin seeds
10g cardamom seeds
8g fennel seeds
8g cinnamon quill
, roughly crushed
7g turmeric powder
5g fenugreek seeds
3g cloves
3g star anise

For the curry
50g ghee
10g curry leaves
350g sliced pink onion
, sliced
35g garlic
, finely chopped
25g ginger, finely chopped
25g finely chopped lemongrass, white half solely
6 pink fowl’s eye chillies
, finely chopped
Freshly floor white pepper
115g pink curry powder
, recipe above
600ml coconut cream
5 x 5cm items pandan leaf
60g tamarind focus
150g coriander
, properly washed, leaves picked, stems and roots finely chopped
800g medium cleaned prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact
Salt flakes
Juice of 1–2 limes

To make the curry powder, place the curry leaves in a frying pan over a medium-high warmth and prepare dinner gently for about two minutes. Reduce the warmth a bit of and prepare dinner for an additional one to 2 minutes till they’re dry and toasted, however not browned.

Allow the leaves to chill fully, then mix them with the remaining spices and grind to a superb powder. Any left over could be saved in an hermetic container.

To make the prawn curry, soften the ghee in a medium saucepan over a medium warmth, then add the curry leaves and prepare dinner, stirring, for a minute or so till the leaves are fried. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilli and prepare dinner, stirring sometimes, for six to seven minutes, till the onion has softened. Lightly season with pepper.

Add the curry powder and prepare dinner, stirring, for one to 2 minutes till it begins to catch on the underside of the pan.

Add the coconut cream, pandan leaf, tamarind and 600ml water and stir properly. Reduce the warmth to low and gently simmer, stirring sometimes, for 10 to 12 minutes till the sauce has lowered and thickened. Stir within the coriander stem and root.

Allow your curry base to chill fully, then combine within the prawns. Transfer to an hermetic container and place within the fridge in a single day.

When you might be prepared to complete cooking the curry, take away it from the fridge – it would have thickened significantly. Scoop it right into a medium saucepan and regularly convey to a simmer over a mild warmth, stirring every so often.

Once the sauce begins to simmer, season to style with salt and extra pepper if wanted. Cook the prawns till they’re simply cooked, about 9 to 12 minutes, relying on their dimension. The curry could have various thick sauce, very popular and bitter, however it’s best to be capable of detect the sweetness of the prawns. Season to style with a bit of lime juice earlier than serving.


An excellent dal is a factor of magnificence and luxury. This dal relies on the recipe my mum taught me: creamy, delicate and really savoury, that is precisely the best way we prepare dinner it on the restaurant.

‘A thing of beauty and comfort’: O Tama Carey’s dal
‘A thing of beauty and comfort’: O Tama Carey’s dal Photograph: Anson Smart

Serves 4–6

75g coconut oil
5g curry leaves
550g brown onions
, lower into medium cube
18g garlic
, finely chopped
15g ginger
, finely chopped
Salt flakes and freshly floor black pepper
7g black mustard seeds
5g turmeric powder
1 cinnamon quill
4 x 5cm items pandan leaf
Bottom 5cm of 1 lemongrass stem
, calmly bruised
525g pink lentils
, completely washed
450ml coconut cream

Melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over a medium warmth. Add the curry leaves and prepare dinner, stirring, for a minute or so till the leaves are fried. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and prepare dinner, stirring sometimes, for six to seven minutes till the onion has softened. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Add the mustard seeds, turmeric and cinnamon and prepare dinner, stirring, for one to 2 minutes till the turmeric begins to catch on the underside of the pan.

Add the pandan leaf, lemongrass and lentils and provides all the things a superb stir to mix.

Pour within the coconut cream and 1 litre of water and blend properly, then scale back the warmth to low and simmer gently for 10 to fifteen minutes, stirring sometimes. The dal is prepared when all of the lentils have simply given away and turned yellow, whereas nonetheless retaining a bit of texture. Reseason with salt and pepper and serve scorching.

Pol sambol

Meaning coconut sambol, that is ubiquitous in Sri Lanka. During any given day on the island, you’ll be exhausting pressed to not eat a model of it at some stage. This recipe makes greater than you want for a median meal (about 450g) however it would maintain for a superb week within the fridge and is scrumptious on many issues. I prefer it on toast with butter, significantly if there’s a poached egg concerned.

Serves 8–10

Sweet, smoky, and umami, pol sambol is a ubiquitous accompaniment to many Sri Lankan dishes
Sweet, smoky, and umami, pol sambol is a ubiquitous accompaniment to many Sri Lankan dishes. Photograph: Anson Smart

300g grated coconut
100g shallot
, finely sliced
3 small inexperienced chillies
, finely chopped
20g Maldive fish flakes
, floor
5g chilli powder
3g black pepper
, freshly floor
3g candy paprika
Juice of 1–2 limes
Salt flakes

Place all of the substances, other than the lime juice and salt, in a bowl and firmly combine them along with one hand, utilizing a squeezing and kneading movement. This not solely combines the substances, it additionally helps launch the oils from the coconut. Keep going till the feel of the sambol is nearly a bit of sticky.

Season to style with lime juice and a beneficiant quantity of salt, mixing and squeezing once more. Serve at room temperature.

Lunu miris

This model is paste-like and barely fiery, with an additional punch from the Maldive fish flakes. Not for the faint-hearted.

A fiery sambol – not for the faint-hearted
A fiery sambol – not for the faint-hearted. Photograph: Anson Smart

22g Maldive fish flakes
4g chilli flakes
4g salt flakes
3 lengthy pink chillies
, lower into skinny rounds
70g shallot
, finely sliced
3g black pepper
, freshly floor
4g chilli powder
Juice of two limes

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the Maldive fish, chilli flakes and salt till the fish flakes are finely floor.

Add the lengthy pink chillies and shallot and pound to a paste-like consistency; it doesn’t should be tremendous clean.

Mix by means of the pepper and chilli powder and season to style with lime. Serve at room temperature.

Seeni sambol

Along with pol sambol, that is the opposite sambol discovered in every single place. The title interprets to sugar sambol, nevertheless it has the proper steadiness of candy, scorching, smoky, bitter and umami. It is a good accompaniment to most Lankan meals, significantly egg hoppers, but in addition anyplace you’ll need caramelised onion. Because of this versatility and the truth that it retains properly, it is a good one to make in bigger batches (this recipe makes slightly below 800 g). The cooking technique is essential to get the onions to the proper texture – we wish them caramelised however nonetheless holding their form with a pleasant little crunch.

As the title suggests, the spice combine utilized in it’s particularly for making seeni sambol, nevertheless it additionally works properly as a aromatic seasoning for meats earlier than grilling.

Serves 10–12

Caramelised onion galore: seeni sambol.
Caramelised onion galore: seeni sambol. Photograph: Anson Smart

For the spice combine
7g chilli powder
7g salt flakes
3g cinnamon quill
, roughly crushed
3g cardamom seeds
3g black peppercorns
1g entire clove
(go a bit of underneath relatively than over with this measure if wanted)

For the sambol
50g ghee
1kg pink onions
, sliced with the grain to a 2 mm thickness
24g garlic
, finely chopped
18g inger
, finely chopped
8g curry leaves
40g Maldive fish flakes
, floor
20g seeni sambol spice combine
, recipe above
50g jaggery
, chopped
40g tamarind focus
Salt flakes

To make the spice combine, mix all of the substances and grind to a superb powder. Store any left over in an hermetic container.

To make the sambol, heat the ghee in a big shallow saucepan over a excessive warmth till it begins to smoke.

Add one-third of the onion, give it a superb stir to coat with the ghee, then go away to take a seat undisturbed for 30 seconds or so. Repeat this technique of stirring and sitting for 4 to 5 minutes till the onion has softened.

Add half the remaining onion, together with the garlic, ginger and curry leaves, and proceed with the stir and sit technique for an additional three to 4 minutes.

Add the remainder of the onion and prepare dinner in the identical approach for an additional three to 4 minutes.

Mix within the dried fish and spice combine and stir always for one to 2 minutes to mix properly and to ensure the onion doesn’t catch. By now it ought to be properly softened and beginning to caramelise.

Stir within the jaggery and tamarind. Give these two substances time: the jaggery must soften and caramelise barely and the tamarind wants be completely integrated into the combo.

Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes till the onion combine is darkish, caramelised and looking out sticky.

Remove from the warmth and have a style; it’s best to solely want a little bit of salt for seasoning. Set apart to chill and serve at room temperature.


Makes 16–18

To make your personal hoppers, you will have hopper pans, obtainable from Sri Lankan or Indian grocers and on-line. The dough must relaxation in a single day so begin the recipe a day forward.

The humble hopper: a labour of love
The humble hopper: a labour of affection. Photograph: Anson Smart

400g medium coarse rice flour
100g coarse rice flour
11g caster (superfine) sugar
10g dried yeast
7g cooking salt
300ml coconut cream
for any egg hoppers

Place the flours, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl and blend properly together with your arms. Add 300ml water and mix together with your arms to type a dough – will probably be a bit of crumbly and never very sticky. Turn it out on to your bench and knead briefly till it simply comes collectively.

Return it to the bowl, cowl with a tea towel and go away the dough to relaxation at room temperature for 2 hours.

Wrap the dough or place it in a container with a lid and relaxation within the fridge in a single day.

The subsequent morning, place the dough in a big bowl and whisk within the coconut cream and one other 300ml of water to type a batter. Leave at room temperature for one to one-and-a-half hours, till it turns into mild and fluffy in texture. The fluffy texture is the important thing as this means fermentation. Once it hits this stage, the batter will final for an additional few hours, or may even be positioned within the fridge and used the subsequent day. At some level, although, the batter will over-ferment and can not be any good. You will be capable of inform when this occurs because the batter will lose its lightness and change into very skinny.

To make egg hoppers, crack an egg into a bowl and pour it into the batter as soon as you have swirled it.
To make egg hoppers, crack an egg right into a bowl and pour it into the batter as quickly as you could have swirled it. Photograph: Anson Smart

To prepare dinner your hoppers, warmth a hopper pan over a medium warmth. Ladle 80ml of batter into the center of the pan, then use your arms to swirl it round in a round movement to the highest edge. You will know the temperature is true when the batter makes solely a really slight sizzle because it goes in and, if you swirl it, it sticks in a pleasant 1mm layer across the fringe of the pan. There ought to be sufficient batter to coat the sting and nonetheless go away a few tablespoon of batter within the base. If you discover you could have an excessive amount of batter, tip a bit out. The hopper batter across the edge ought to be skinny and delicate, and dotted with little lacy holes.

If the pan is simply too scorching, the batter could not persist with the sting as you swirl it, or it’s possible you’ll discover that it swirls however could be very thick. If the pan just isn’t fairly scorching sufficient, the layer of batter across the edge will probably be too superb. You can treatment this by doing a double swirl.

Just settle for that you will want to experiment the primary few occasions to get the warmth good.

Once the pan is coated, flip the warmth up barely and prepare dinner with out the lid till you begin to see bubbles forming within the batter puddle on the bottom. At this level, put the lid on, flip the warmth down a bit of and prepare dinner for one minute.

Remove the lid to launch the steam and take a look; the additional batter within the backside ought to be a bit of doughy and puffy. Put the lid again on and prepare dinner for an additional minute.

Remove the lid once more. To make sure that the doughy bit is cooked, check it together with your finger: it ought to be tender and spongy, not moist and sticky.

If it’s not fairly cooked, put the lid again on for a second.

After the lid comes off for the ultimate time, proceed cooking the hopper for an additional minute or so till the surface edge begins to color and are available away from the pan.

Hold the pan with a tea towel and provides it a agency faucet on the sting to launch the hopper a bit of. Cook for a second extra, then end up the hopper on to a wire rack. You ought to be capable of take away it simply by turning it, but when it’s a bit of caught, use a bamboo skewer to assist launch any caught bits. Let it sit for a second after which serve instantly. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Lanka Food by O Tama Carey.

If you wish to make egg hoppers, use the identical technique however with a tiny bit much less batter, as you don’t want any further pooling within the backside. Crack an egg right into a bowl and pour it into the batter as quickly as you could have swirled it. Season with salt and pepper or a pepper spice combine and proceed cooking as described above. The solely distinction is that you will want to prepare dinner with the lid on for an additional one to 2 minutes to set the egg.

If you don’t like runny egg yolks, you can provide the egg a bit of whisk earlier than cooking.

  • This is an edited extract from Lanka Food by O Tama Carey, revealed by Hardie Grant Books (RRP$55).

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