Breakfasts in Sri Lanka are like the country’s landscape – bright and fresh and scattered with coconut. There are also plenty of “short eats” to enjoy too.
Egg hoppers in Jaffna
Wandering around the streets of Sri Lanka on my first few days in the country, I was curious about the bowl-shaped, pancake-like snacks I kept seeing stacked in glass cabinets outside restaurants. What were they?
These little baskets of joy fast became my favourite breakfast in Sri Lanka, and even more so when served with an egg dropped in the middle and a dollop of coconut sambal on the side.
I still dream of egg hoppers for breakfast now.
The best that I had in Sri Lanka were from a run-down, dark and dingy looking cafe in Jaffna, in the far north of the country. The cafe’s beaming proprietor served up some perfect egg hoppers before plonking a bucket-sized pot of coconut sambal next to us, from which we could spoon out sambal at our leisure.
Hoppers are made from a fermented coconut milk batter, which is cooked in hopper pans (a kind of miniature wok with a lid). When cooked, the middle is light and spongy while the edges are lacey and moreishly crisp. The accompanying coconut sambal (not only served with hoppers but an array of other Sri Lankan dishes) is made from freshly grated coconut, mixed with a combination of tomatoes, onions, lime and chillies. To me, coconut sambal epitomises the taste of Sri Lanka in one flavour-packed hit.
From what I read, it seems that hoppers are having a bit of a moment back in my hometown of London, where they are the current darling of the breakfast scene. But I can’t help but balk at the prices being charged. They cost peanuts in Sri Lanka!
Egg rotis on the beach
As well as hoppers, there are all sorts of other delicious treats available for breakfast in Sri Lanka, not to mention the abundance of fruit on offer. But one other breakfast snack I have to mention here is the egg roti, one of the many short eats (snacks basically) available in Sri Lanka.
You can find egg rotis all around Sri Lanka – a portable, pocket-sized package of warm egg, encased in soft, springy flatbread. The flatbread is made from wholemeal flour and stretched out until it’s so thin that it’s almost transparent. A raw egg is then placed in the middle, along with things like onions, green chillies and spices, before being wrapped up and cooked on the hot-pan.
The most important thing about egg roti is how and where it’s eaten. The very best way is as follows:
First, wake up early and pick up some (hot) egg rotis to takeaway, next head to your favourite Sri Lankan beach, jump into the Indian Ocean for an invigorating swim, head back to the shore to dry off and enjoy your (still warm) egg roti while gazing out at the turquoise blue ocean.