Sri Lankan fried chicken & hoppers

Our twist on a Sri Lankan staple. Lightly-spiced, succulent chicken makes the perfect partner to hoppers – rice pancakes – served with a silky smooth coconut onion gravy

  • Prep:30 mins
    Cook:1 hrs
    plus fermentation and brining overnight
  • Serves 6
  • A challenge

Nutrition per serving

  • kcal 961
  • fat 56g
  • saturates 30g
  • carbs 75g
  • sugars 11g
  • fibre 5g
  • protein 37g
  • salt 1.1g


  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 500g skinless chicken breasts, each cut into 3 pieces
  • 250g rice flour
  • 1 ½ tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp golden caster sugar
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • rapeseed oil, for brushing
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 1l sunflower oil or rapeseed oil
  • 75g gram flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 100g quick-cook polenta
  • 25g desiccated coconut
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small green chilli, halved lengthways
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp cane or light brown sugar
  • 400ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 125g bag baby leaf spinach, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp lime juice


  1. To prepare the chicken, tip the coconut milk into a jug and stir in the garlic, spices and 1 tsp salt. Put the chicken in a plastic container or roasting tin and pour over the brine mix to cover. Cover with cling film and chill for 24 hrs.

  2. For the hoppers, put the rice flour in a large bowl. In a jug, combine 125ml water with the yeast and sugar, and leave for about 8 mins until you see some foaming. Pour in the coconut milk and whisk the wet ingredients into the rice flour to make a smooth batter, slightly thinner than pancake batter. Season, cover and allow to ferment overnight in the fridge.

  3. To make the kiri hodi, put all the ingredients (except the coconut milk, lime juice and spinach) in a heavy-based saucepan. Add 1 tbsp water and simmer over a low heat for 5 mins or until the onion softens. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for a further 1-2 mins (do not boil). Tip in the spinach, stir until wilted, then remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and add the lime juice.

  4. To make the sambol, use a pestle and mortar or mini processor to grind the onions with the chillies, a big pinch of salt and smoked paprika, to form a coarse paste. Season with lime juice and more salt, if needed.

  5. To cook, remove the chicken and hoppers mix from the fridge for about 1 hr so they come to room temperature. To cook the chicken, heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or saucepan until it reaches 180C on a cooking thermometer. To make the fried chicken coating, combine all the ingredients with 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl. Piece by piece, remove the chicken from its brine, allow the excess to drip off, then dredge it in the coating. Shake off the excess and fry in the oil for 6-8 mins until cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper, then rest in a low oven while you make the hoppers.

  6. Make the hoppers. Whisk your hoppers base to remove any lumps. Add a splash more water to thin it if needed. Heat a non-stick frying pan, a hopper pan or small high-sided wok and brush on some rapeseed oil with kitchen paper. Add a ladle of mix to the pan and immediately swirl it around and up the edges to create a bowl-shaped pancake. Cook for 1 min, then add an egg and cover with a lid. Cook for 2-3 mins more until the egg is cooked and the edges are starting to brown. Repeat with the remaining batter and eggs. Serve the hoppers with the chicken, sambol and kiri hodi.

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