What is a Hopper? | Sri Lankan Food, Hoppers.

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What is a hopper? Hoppers are a type of pancake or noodle served commonly in Sri Lanka. String hoppers resemble a nest of noodles, plain hoppers look like bowl-shaped pancake because of the shape of the hopper pans. This posts goes into the different types of hopper you can enjoy in Sri Lanka or make at home.

Hoppers. What Are The Sri Lankan Food Hoppers
Hoppers are a Sri Lankan pancake which can be sweet or savoury, or, there are also string hoppers. Read to find out more!

In this post, we cover plain hoppers, string hoppers, filled hoppers and sweet desert hoppers. Keep scrolling for more photos.

I’d read about hoppers in the Sri Lankan food section of the Lonely Planet, but until our latest month in Sri Lanka I’d never seen nor tried one. That was because my first trips to Sri Lanka were as a much richer tourist staying in fancy hotels often eating at the more expensive beach restaurants. These places did not serve hoppers at that time, but hoppers seem to be more poupar with tourists in Sri Lanka today. We’ve eaten hoppers at some very fancy resort hotels and villas, and at roadside food stalls. I wouldn’t really call hoppers a street food, you don’t normally see people eating on the street in Sri Lanka.

Hoppers are a Sri Lankan dish and they come in many varieties with both string hoppers and egg hoppers being particularly popular.

making hoppers at a roadsite food stall in Sri Lanka
This is a regular hopper, a bowl shaped pancake, with a vegetable filling. We ordered and ate these filled hoppers in Ella, Sri Lanka.

To find hoppers on the island of Sri Lanka, you needed to go to the local eateries, the roti huts, and “hotels” as restaurants in Sri Lanka are often called.

These days hoppers are far easier to find, on our most recent trip we saw hoppers served on hotel buffets and cooked for us in private villas, hoppers are on the rise!  One hotel even had a live cooking station at breakfast producing plain and egg hoppers to order.

String hoppers and curry Sri Lankan food
String hoppers, the nests of noodles in the front right of this photo, are another type of hopper

All hotels we used on that trip had string hoppers and typical curries on the breakfast buffets. 20 years ago we only saw Western breakfasts.

Hoppers are cool these days and tourists seem more willing to try local food, so if you’re heading to Sri Lanka you should now have no problem finding them.

an egg hopper, a pancake containing egg
An egg hopper is a regular hopper with an egg cooked in the middle. The egg can be beaten, like this, or sunny side up, see bellow.

All types of hoppers were delicious meals for us, particularly with the kids. Hoppers come in different varieties, you’re bound to find the hopper for you.

Hoppers is the anglicised name commonly used in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is generally very anglicised. You may also see hoppers on the menu as appam, string hoppers as idiyappam.


Hoppers come in many forms. Standard hoppers are typical Sri Lankan bowl-shaped or funnel-shaped pancakes.

String hoppers are nests of noodle-like steamed batter. They’re almost like rice noodles, to eat with curries and chutneys in place of rice.

Hoppers can be filled, you’ll see egg hoppers, vegetable hoppers and sweet hoppers. There are more examples on this page. Lets answer that question, “what is a hopper?” in full.

Plain Hoppers

hoppers with curry on the breakfast table
Hoppers with potato curry, dal and coconut chutney.
  • Hoppers in their simplest form are bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk. The fermentation process makes the hopper batter bubbly.
  • Cooked in small round hopper pans over a medium-heat gas flame, hoppers tend to come out crispy around the edges, thicker at the bottom.  It’s a real skill to make hoppers. We have a hopper pan and we’ve tried to make them at home, so far without much success.
  • Hoppers can be simply seasoned with salt and pepper or made spicy with hot fresh chilli sambols and curries.
  • They are top right in this photo of a fantastic Sri Lankan breakfast.
  • To eat hoppers you smoosh them with your fingers into the curry and sambol. I believe the technical term for Sri Lankan-style eating is smooshing.  We became quite good smooshers.

Or you could ask for a knife and fork, nobody will mind.

Hoppers – What are They Served With?

Sri Lankan hoppers are most often served with curries and spicy chutneys. Egg curry, potato curry and dal are common savoury curries to serve with hoppers. However, hoppers can also be a sweet dish or dessert with yoghurt (curd) and palm syrup. There are photos on this page of various ways of serving hoppers.

Hoppers With Egg – Egg Hoppers

an egg hopper, a pancake containing egg
An egg hopper is a regular hopper with an egg cooked in the middle. The egg can be beaten, like this, or sunny side up, see bellow.

Egg hoppers are simply plain hopper with an egg cracked in the bottom. We only really saw these in the evening. Sri Lankan food tends to run to a timetable, you can’t always get the same food all day.

Sri Lankan Food Guide. What is a hopper? egg hoppers, plain hoppers, string hoppers and sweet hoppers, they're all good and the next big thing in pancakes.

We made this pin for you to bookmark to Pinterest. Thanks.

I like my egg hoppers spiced up with some fresh coconut (pol) sambol as in the Pinterest image, above, the children like theirs with cheese.

plain and egg hoppers sunny side up
Egg hoppers with a whole egg, sunny side up. We were served these at a beach villa in Sri Lanka

Look out for road-side hopper huts with their rows of tiny round pans, take them home or eat in.

Hoppers With Vegetables, Filled Hoppers

hopper filled with egg and vegetables, child eating.
One of my kids enjoying a hopper filled with egg and vegetables. Hoppers aren’t “spicy” at all unless you add chilli chitneys or sauces.

Hoppers can come with all sorts of fillings.

These are vegetable and egg hoppers at The Roti Hut, Ella Sri Lanka. Our favourite place to eat, on the main street in Ella. They cost almost nothing.

The finished dish. I was really happy to feed the boys these hoppers, some good nutrition going on there, and nothing too spicy.

Cheese and egg hoppers were good, too.

Curd and Trickle Hoppers

Sweet hopper dessert
sweet hoppers as a dessert with curd (yoghurt) and treacle (palm syrup).

A special treat. Curd is fresh buffalo yoghurt, or sometimes cow.  Small roadside stores sell the curd in terracotta pots wrapped in leaves or newspapers all over Sri Lanka.

Trickle (aka treacle or honey) is coconut palm syrup, it has a lovely smokey flavour. We once saw it as “trickle” on a menu, so the name trickle has stuck in our family.

String Hoppers

string hoppers served with curry and chutney
String hoppers (idiyappam) back left with dal curry and coconut (pol) sambol, a freshly grated coconut dish.

Idiyappam or string hoppers are the things that look like nests of spaghetti in this breakfast picture. To make string hoppers Sri Lankans mix red or white roasted rice flour with warm or hot water to make a dough, then push it through a sieve or press to make the strands.

The individual little matted nests then go into a steamer. You will find string hopper moulds, mats, and steamers to buy online.

String hopper makers are widely available in Sri Lanka,  in the UK you can buy one on Amazon, (for USA click here).

making string hoppers using a special tool
How string hoppers are made. The rice flour mixture is pushed through a perforated plate. The nests of noodles are then steamed.

String hoppers are an essential part of a Sri Lankan breakfast. They are very good for smooshing into the curries and sambols.

String hoppers can also be served with curries at dinner as they were at the luxurious Max Wadiya villa. The private Chef there, Ranjan, gave us a string hopper making master-class (above).

Now you know all about hoppers! They’re nothing fancy, but tasty and great for kids, we’re marking them up as one of our food highlights from around the world. If somebody asks you “What is a hopper?” Just tell them they’re a Sri Lankan pancake.

More Videos, Sri Lanka & Sri Lankan Food, Foodie Travel!

We created multiple posts and videos that should be interesting to you, as a lover of food in Sri Lanka and as a foodie traveler. Find them here on our food around the world index page.

If you want to make string hoppers at home, you’ll need an Idiyappam maker (a noodle maker is just as good) some Idiyappam flour (buy online here) and, of course, an Idiyappam recipe. Just click through for all 3. My husband, Chef, has created information-packed blog posts about these.  So now you know what a hopper is, back to our main Sri Lanka Travel Blog page for everything you need to know about this fabulous country as a travel destination. More on Sri Lankan food here.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

10 thoughts on “What is a Hopper? | Sri Lankan Food, Hoppers.”

  1. Nice article about hoppers. In addition to egg and plain hoppers, Now there are new hoppers like Cheese and chilli hoppers and Nutella hoppers. See the photos here.

  2. Mmmm,Hoppers is my best choice..
    Lets talk about the next most popular Sri lankan street food dish “Koththu”..
    Shredded Rotti bread , chopped up on a grill with egg , vegetables and any meat in it…its with not only flavor or color there is music in it too..: )..

  3. I’m a huge fan of hoppers!But,I’ve never tasted curd and trickle hoppers and filled hoppers!They look sooo yummy!Can’t wait to try them by my own.Thanks for sharing!

  4. It’s not “trickle,” that’s the way they pronounce, treacle, as in a sweet syrup. Sri Lankan yogurt is made from buffalo milk, so it has a richer taste, that’s the way we like our “curds,” with treacle on it.

  5. We were in Sri Lanka in January, I miss the breakfast so much! That country ruined food for us, everything was just so incredible. We are already planning a trip back Xx

  6. Good luck with the smooshing Sarah! I’m quite envious, I’d love to spend more time in Sri Lanka, partly just for those awesome breakfasts!


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