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You can find red or white rice flour, which results in string hoppers of the corresponding colour. I find the white version to be smoother than the red but prefer the latter when eating them in place of rice, soaked in curry.
String hopper mats (thattu), idli moulds, or perforated tray string hopper press
250g string hopper flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 tsp oil
200mL–250mL boiling water
Combine the string hopper flour, salt and 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large bowl. Slowly trickle in the boiling water while constantly mixing with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stopping when the mix is just starting to come together.
Depending on the variety of rice flour you use, you may not need the full 200mL, so proceed with caution as it will go from too dry to too wet very suddenly.
Wearing rubber gloves, start kneading the dough. (Don’t try this with bare hands, as the dough will be extremely hot.) Knead quickly and gently, adding more water very slowly until everything comes together as a firm yet soft ball.
Divide the dough into balls and place one in the string hopper press. Oil your plastic string hopper mats or perforated tray (see note).
Press out the string hoppers using the finest mesh ring. Cover the entire mat moving in circles and repeat until you have a double-layered string hopper on each mat. Use a sharp knife to cut away the strings of dough before moving onto the next string hopper.
If you don’t have a steamer, boil some water in a large lidded pan and place a wooden or metal rack within it so the string hopper mats can sit on top of them and steam.
Alternatively, you can place the string hopper mats inside a bamboo or metal steaming basket. Steam for 10–12 minutes, then remove onto a plate and serve immediately or store in an airtight box while you prepare the rest.
You can prepare these ahead and keep them chilled. To reheat, steam for 3–4 minutes, or until soft and piping hot before serving.
If you can’t find string hopper flour, you can use plain rice flour, as long as it is very finely milled.
Roast it over a medium heat until fragrant and slightly nutty, but don’t let the colour change. Then allow it to cool to room temperature before passing it through a fine-mesh strainer. It’s worth noting that brands and varieties of rice flour can vary significantly and one might not perform as well as the other, or particularly as well as the specialist flours.
If using cane mats, you won’t need to oil them as they are naturally non-stick. I have recently seen brands of string hopper ?our that call for cold water instead of boiling water; follow the packet instructions. The rest of the recipe remains identical.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Hoppers: The Cookbook by Karan Gokani, published by Quadrille, RRP $60.00. Available in stores nationally from 19 October 2022. Photography by Ryan Wijayaratne.
Photo Credits: This is an edited extract from Hoppers: The Cookbook by Karan Gokani, published by Quadrille, RRP $60.00. Available in stores nationally from 19 October 2022. Photography by Ryan Wijayaratne.