Why do Sri Lankans and Tourists love hoppers?-
By Dr Harold Gunatillake
The most popular street food in Sri Lanka today on your next visit you will notice on the wayside boutique hotels along the main roads or in the busy streets in the cities, the hot food delicacy available are the hoppers and seeni-sambol, pol sambol, and meat curry to go with.
When departing from the Bandaranaike Airport, on the way to your destination, most visitors stop at these wayside hotels to enjoy a hot hopper treat to feel good you are at home.
When you leave the airport, however much you eat on the plane, your hunger pangs start activating, and the best choice of foods are the hot hoppers, especially when you travel during the late hours ours in the morning.
You don’t go inside these hotels to enjoy your hopper treat, but by just tooting the horn, a waiter will be prompt to take your order while sitting in the car-tired and hungry as ever.
This would be your first feeling of satisfaction and bouffage in the first hour of entry to homeland.
Once, I met a young Australian tourist in Colombo, when asked whether he was enjoying his holiday in paradise, he said, “I love that ‘hopper city’ in the holy village down South, the hoppers were fantastic nourishing treats at such low prices” When ask which part of the hopper he preferred. “Of course, the crispy frills, he said, but the fleshy center with a ‘bull’s-eye’ on top was delicious, but disastrous when the yellow half cooked yolk starts dribbling down the chin. There you are that was the impression of a foreign tourist eating hoppers for the first time.
On further chat, I realized he was referring to Kataragama village. This guy has been eating egg hoppers daily as the main meal with strong chilies paste (kata sambol) and spicy onion sambol (Seeni sambol) and savouring very much to his heart’s content.
It is a backpackers delight too, because it is the cheapest satifying hot food that is so delicious with the round abouts like seenisambol and meat curry
You could enjoy any Sri Lankan delicacy like fried rice or biriyani occasionally, but eating hoppers daily is much acceptable to your taste buds. When you eat hoppers once, you do not mind eating hoppers every day.
This is akin to going to the elephant country like ‘Udawalawe’ to see the same wild elephants as often as possible, never gets tired.
Taste buds of humans get addicted to certain foods like chocolate. Sugary foods, processed foods filled with sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, hoppers pittus and rotties, all turn into sugar in your body and spike your blood-sugar levels. New research shows that sugars light up pleasure centers in your brain, just like cocaine and heroin do. This causes addictive cravings for these foods — cravings that we often can’t resist.
The brain knows that when a person eats enjoyable foods like hoppers, you are doing something right, and the brain releases feel-good chemicals in the reward system.
These chemicals include the neurotransmitter dopamine, which the brain interprets as pleasure.
Amygdala is the primary brain area regulating appetite with response to emotions. Amygdala seem to activate foods like hoppers, and as a result never feels bored by eating them, even daily.
As I said, eating hoppers never makes you bored, you tend to like eating daily, more and more.
Hoppers are low calorie compared to other similar foods made from rice and wheat flour.
Each hopper mixture contains two table spoons of batter that makes one hopper. The calories from the flour of two tablespoons of batter would be about 25 cals. The coconut milk though it contains saturated fat would add another 25 cals. So, all in all, each hopper would be about 50 cals. If you add an egg into the hopper you need to add another 75 cals.
Nutrition Facts about hoppers:
Serving Size 2 tablespoon (28 g)
Calories from Fat 20
Total Fat 5g
Cholesterol 0mg: Sodium 125mg: Potassium 0mg: Carbohydrates 2g: Sugars 1g: Protein 0g
Insignificant amounts of vitamins C, E, B1, and B3, B5 and B6 and minerals: iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous from the coconut milk.
Each hopper has about 5 grams of fat, and you are permitted to eat about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day.
A great health advantage is no oil is used in the process of cooking, except wiping the cooking pan (thatchu) with oil impregnated piece of cloth, unlike preparations like paratha and flat bread.
One would on an average eat three hoppers and you bet you have filled your stomach for your hunger pangs to vanish and you would have consumed less than 200 cals.
A very small amount of sugar is added to the batter, and this would be insignificant from calories point of view.
That unique taste of the hopper is mainly due to the added yeast to the mix to ferment and being kept overnight.
Adding yeast to the hopper mixture is beneficial to the gut microbes.
It is like feeding your boarders living in your large bowel, living on fermented foods and dietary fiber, referred to as probiotics and prebiotics, respectively.
These trillions of microbes living in your large gut looks after your health and wellbeing in many ways. Among other functions, they boost your immune system and keep you in trim health. So, eating hoppers even daily have its advantages of the health benefits. These microbes in your gut love hoppers, in addition to other fermented foods, pickles, yogurt and cultured foods.
In addition to the street food joints, five-star hotels also serve hoppers for breakfast. They make it hot for you with an added egg on your request, takes nearly 5 min and you need to have patience.
In the old days, Saturday night dancing in a five-star hotel was the done thing by the elite.
After the ball, they all visit these street boutique hotels, in their bow and tie black suits, order hoppers that are brought to your car by the waiters, enjoy as many, go home to sleep with their full stomachs.
Those baby boomer generations will remember in Colombo, in their dress suits after dances would dart at 5 am to the hotel in Bamba junction or the one in Pettah before going home, to enjoy a good feed of hoppers. Of course, those days are gone, now the revelers take a risk in night driving, and the cops are waiting on the roadsides with the breathalyzers to check your alcohol consumption during the night.
Today, there are many restaurants in Colombo for mouth-watering awesome hoppers and the spectrum is large. People patronize these ‘Appa kades’ mostly for dinner, and those who are fortunate to have domestics at home it is a frequent morning pride.
Hoppers soothes your mood
People who eat hoppers are very satisfied and the flavor lingers in the mouth for a while and the satiety enhances your mood. No other food does this, perhaps Chinese Food may. To fulfil one’s satiety, you need to eat an egg hopper, with a thick egg center, and short crunchy side frills. They are most enjoyed with dynamite katta sambol.
If you are in Sydney, there are many Sri Lankan restaurants like Colombo 21 in Castle Hill, Manjula’s ‘Dish’ in Glebe, Chanaka’s in Mort dale among others.
Hope this mouth-watering video presentation was helpful.
I am sure you’ll keep in mind to visit a road-side boutique hotel on your next visit to Sri Lanka, not this year, may be next. So, remember to think of me when you enjoy those treats.
Stay at home, stay safe and goodbye for now.
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