Since landing in Soho in 2015, Hoppers quickly became a cult favourite with a queue-willing fan base – an unmistakable symptom of London’s insatiable appetite for South Indian and Sri Lankan food. Eight years later, Hoppers is now a three-strong family, with two more restaurants in Kings Cross and Marylebone.
The restaurant's name sake, the hopper, is a South Indian dish, specifically from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, known as ‘appa’ or ‘appam’. The history is ambiguous but the story goes that British settlers struggled to pronounce apam, so began referring to them as hoppers, and so the name stuck.
There is a marked difference between hoppers from South India and Sri Lanka. The former being flatter and softer, owing to heavier iron pans. Those from Sri Lanka are traditionally cooked in light aluminium woks, yielding lacy edges and the iconic, crisp bowl-shape. In Sri Lanka hoppers are served for breakfast or dinner in sweet or savoury stacks from street vendors.
Serve plain as an accompaniment to curry and pol sambol, or drop an egg into the centre and steam gently to make an egg hopper. Equally, add a splash of coconut milk in the last minute of cooking to transform it into a milk hopper, or crumble in some jaggery at the end to make it a sweet one.
As with any fermented dough or batter, practice is required and the recipe can only take you so far. There is mastery in understanding the batter's consistency, knowing when to add extra sugar to deepen the colour, or extra water to get the perfect crisp edge.
Thankfully, there are three pieces of advice from the Hoppers team to master this favourite. The first, to pour batter with conviction and sweep around the pan without hesitation, for a single, decisive swirl. The second, to invest in a good aluminium pan. And the third, as with any pancake, is to resign yourself that the first will probably not be your best.