string hoppers, sambols, kiri hodi...and roti

i just returned from my parents' house with a bag full of sri lankan food. surprise! not really. the typical exchange goes something like this:

mom: can i give you some food to take? i just made a few things you might like.

me: no, it's ok mom, we have a lot of food at home and i was planning on having a big salad for dinner. i ate waaaay too much this weekend.

mom: oh but james might like it. take some for him. we already ate all of this, we don't need it.

(insert 3 minutes of polite but firm protest, and loving but passive-aggressive guilt re. how the food was made with us in mind and a mild suggestion that i'm depriving james of enjoying life.)

me: ok, maybe just a little

but that always turns out to be four meals' worth of food for two. my aunt is guilty of making "just a few things" that we might like too (not sure why those tend to be james' favourites exclusively these days…) like the string hoppers she made for us a couple of months back. you wouldn't want me to show you every single batch of food i haul back from their homes, because that would require a blog all its own. but i will share them once in a while since i'm just starting to learn how to make some of these dishes, so i won't be sharing the trials and successes of cooking sri lankan from my own kitchen very often yet.

string hoppers are usually a breakfast meal in my family. steamed rice flour gets passed through a hand-pushed press that resembles a play doh machine more than a pasta maker. the dough is pressed through the holes and layered in overlapping circles straight onto a wood or plastic hopper mat. the mats are placed in a steamer and the hoppers cook quite quickly. if you're more familiar with hoppers (the pancake-like rice flour treats from south-east asia), think of something much more delicate and less doughy. this comes out more like a nest of cellophane noodles than angel-hair pasta.

as you can see, string hoppers can be served with many things, but they are generally served with thinner curries. above is a soy meat curry, seeni sambol (caramelized onions and red chili) in the centre, a pol (coconut) sambol in the bowl on the left, and just at the very top you can see the yellow kiri hodi (milk sauce/gravy made with coconut milk, curry leaves and green chilies) that i love to drown my string hoppers in. by the end i'm left with almost a noodle soup…the spiciest, most flavourful and addictive noodle soup ever. 

oh and the bread-like triangles in the picture are pieces of roti that my aunt made and sent over, that really have no place being eaten with string hoppers and are never served with them. unless you're trying to make your way through 30 little things that my family has sent you off with, that james might like.