Sri Lanka Egg Hopper

Crepe-like bowl and savory egg: What's not to like?

In the small canon of dishes served in edible receptacles, the classic soup-in-a-bread-bowl combo is often the first to come to mind. But that's only because clam chowder in sourdough is—for most diners—more readily accessible than Sri Lanka's strong contender: the egg hopper.

These thin, bowl-shaped dishes are composed of rice flour and coconut milk, formed into something akin to a thin pancake or crepe, and can be found all over the South Asian island. They come in many forms and can be topped with a variety of ingredients, but a soft-boiled egg is the classic.

To make the fermented batter, chefs mix the rice flour and coconut milk with yeast and sugar. From there, the batter is transferred into a "hopper pan,"a small, high-sided frying pan that gives the dish its bowl-like shape. As the batter cooks, other ingredients like a cracked egg, sautéed onions and spices get added to the middle of the pan. The lid is applied for just a few minutes, and that's it: your egg hopper is ready.

The fermented batter, helped along by the special pan, yields crispy, lacy edges. The still-soft egg coats everything with silken yolk. It's satisfying, delicious and eye-catching.

If you get the chance to eat an egg hopper in Sri Lanka, you obviously should. You can find them everywhere from street stalls and casual cafés to luxury hotels. But you can find them elsewhere, too. London sports a handful of solid Sri Lankan restaurants, none more popular than Hoppers in Soho. There, hungry masses line up before the doors open for a chance to get inside, and if you play your cards right (as in, you show up early enough), you could be one of those lucky diners.

New York—particularly Staten Island's Little Sri Lanka neighborhood—also has several great egg hoppers on hand. Try Lakruwana or Sigiri, which also has an East Village location. On the opposite side of the country, San Francisco's 1601 Bar & Kitchen serves a contemporary take on Sri Lankan food, including a hopper topped with a Jidori egg and sambol. 

Go forth and seek out an egg hopper. Wherever you do eat it, just know you might never look at the humble scrambled egg the same way again.