Appam, or “hoppers” in English, are cup-shaped rice-flour pancakes. They are eaten mostly for breakfast and dinner, which, in Sri Lanka, are the smaller meals of the day – so don’t go searching for them for lunch. Sri Lanka doesn’t have an enormous avenue meals scene – the standard meals of rice and curries isn’t actually an “on the go” dish – however appam are the exception: they’re bought at stalls (typically as a part of a restaurant) with rooster curry (extra gravy than meat) and coconut sambal.
The good appam is mild and fluffy within the center and crispy on the edges. Traditionally the batter is made with floor rice, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and yeast or toddy, and left to ferment in a single day. The trick is the pan: the batter must be pretty skinny to get the crispy edge, so in case your pan isn’t seasoned and oiled correctly, you may’t get the appam out on the finish. Opinions range about the most effective oil to make use of: gingelly oil (sesame) is conventional, however in Sri Lanka it’s costly, so coconut or vegetable oils are frequent substitutes. Barely “wet” the pan with an oil-soaked rag, and also you’ll know you’ve accomplished it proper when all you’ll want to do is tilt the pan and the appam slides out.
A hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving appams and kottu roti in Kandy. Photograph: Alamy
Often you’ll discover good examples in lodge eating places. Nuga Gama, within the gardens of the Cinnamon Grand lodge in Colombo, does a incredible night buffet, together with appam. But for the adventurous, I’d suggest the streets of Pettah, close to Fort railway station, and its smattering of staff’ cafes: there’s no menu, and little English is spoken. But that’s effective – you already know what you need.
Yohini Nandakumar is co-founder of Sparrow, in Lewisham, south London, which has a brand new appam-focused brunch menu