Sinhala Hoppers? Tamil Hoppers? A Culture of Cooking


How different cultures in Sri Lanka prepare the same traditional meals in different ways

Certain types of food are identified as parts of traditional cultures in particular regions. Although some food can be cooked by others, the preparation and presentation differs. Appam in Tamil and Appa in Sinhala are similar names for a local food variety. Commonly called Hoppers in Sri Lanka, they are cooked differently by Sinhala and Tamil communities. Hoppers are a popular street food in Point Pedro in Jaffna. Mamangam in Batticaloa is also famous for roadside hoppers. They still follow the traditional ways of preparing Hoppers with no chemicals or baking powder in the process. Hoppers are cooked with red rice flour on a traditional stove and are made mostly by women. Batticaloa and Jaffna milk hoppers are a famous delicacy. We met a lady who has been doing this business traditionally in northern Point Pedro in Jaffna and she talked about her trade and the problems she is facing.

THE CATAMARAN: When did you start the business of cooking and selling hoppers?

We have been doing this for generations in Point Pedro. This business has been carried on by many women for generations. Our family is one of them. Five of my sisters engaged in this business until last year. Nowadays I am the only one doing this.

THE CATAMARAN: Are there any reasons for your hoppers called Roadside Hoppers?

Yes, there is a reason. In simple terms, Roadside Hoppers are identical to our town. It is a part of the collection of traditional food items that we prepare and sell on roadsides. Whoever you ask in Point Pedro will tell you the exact location we are stationed. This is Odakkarai Road, which is one of the ancient roads of the town. There is a canal nearby and people come here on bicycles to buy hoppers. Our Hoppers are popular.

THE CATAMARAN: What types of hoppers do you prepare?

Usually hoppers are mixed with coconut milk and sugar. Also, we cook white hoppers (without milk). They are accompanied with coconut sambol or eggplant curry. Some restaurants offer Sinhalese hoppers. We also have started to prepare them.

THE CATAMARAN: What is a Sinhala hopper?

We normally prepare sweet hoppers with coconut milk or hoppers to eat with coconut Sambol. But Sinhala people cook plain and egg hoppers and eat them with Katta Sambol.

THE CATAMARAN: Do you face any problems while doing this business?

We don’t have big problems but sometimes Public Health Inspectors and Tax Officers come by. Public Health Inspectors advise us to make changes to our shops. If we make changes to the shops, it will damage our traditional image. I have done all the tests asked by the Public Health Inspector and I have taken the necessary vaccines etc. I could not pay the taxes because I am used to prepare the hoppers for just two hours a day.

THE CATAMARAN: Do you have assistance from your family?

Actually I am the last lady who prepare Point Pedro roadside hoppers. It will see the end after my demise. My siblings engaged in this previously but now they have gone abroad. Others stopped the business because of tax issues from the government. Older women stopped cooking hoppers because they are feeble. There were happy times when 13 ladies did this business on this road. Now, there is only me.

This article was originally published on the

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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