EGG HOPPERS WITH ONION SAMBOL

This is Sri Lanka’s favorite breakfast: lacy rice crêpes fashioned into bowls, with an egg nestling in the middle, topped with sweet spicy onion sambol and zingy lime juice. It’s a heavenly combination of flavors. Traditionally, in Sri Lanka, hoppers are made by fermenting rice overnight, but I’ve created this variation based on an old Charmaine Solomon recipe in which you just need to rest the batter for an hour. The bowl shape comes from a special “hopper pan,” but a small non-stick omelette pan with a lid will work well in its place.

Makes 8 hoppers (enough for 4 people for breakfast)

FOR THE EGG HOPPERS

2 teaspoons yeast
1½ teaspoons sugar
¾ cup self-rising flour
1¼ cups rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
12/3 cups hand-hot water
canola oil
8 eggs
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
a handful of cilantro leaves

FOR THE ONION SAMBOL

4 cardamom pods
4 tablespoons canola oil
4 whole cloves
1¾-inch cinnamon stick
1 pound red onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ground red chile
2 teaspoons sugar

To make the hoppers, place the yeast, sugar, flours, and salt in a large bowl and whisk together to combine. Add the water and whisk well until you have a smooth consistency. Place the bowl in a warm spot (like an airing cupboard, or slightly warm oven) for 15 minutes, or until the mixture is full of bubbles. It’s then ready to go.

Next, make the onion sambol. Bash the cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle until cracked. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and, when hot, add the cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon stick. When you can smell the spices, add the red onions, salt, and ground red chile and cook over low to medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the onions don’t burn. At the end, stir in the sugar and cook until dissolved. Check the seasoning and take off the heat.

To cook the hoppers, take either a hopper pan or a small lidded non-stick frying pan and rub the inside with some oil-dipped paper towels. Put it over low to medium heat. When hot, whisk the bubbly batter and pour a ladleful into the pan. Holding the pan by the handle(s), quickly twist it so the batter coats the bottom and all the way around the sides. Cook for a minute until the batter has set, then crack an egg into the middle and cover with the lid. Cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes, until the whites of the egg are set and the hopper batter has left the sides of the pan, then slide or gently lever onto a plate. The hopper should be crisp, and golden on the outside, and the egg yolk runny in the middle. Repeat, adjusting your timings if need be.

Top the hopper with a spoonful of onion sambol (remove any spices you don’t want to bite into), a wedge of lime, and some cilantro, and eat straight away.