When you think of pancakes, what comes to mind? Most of us probably imagine thin crêpes, topped with sugar and lemon; or perhaps an American stack, thick and fluffy and groaning with maple syrup.
But all across Britain, a curious new cousin is battering its way into our hearts. Meet the hopper - Sri Lanka's bowl-shaped answer to the pancake.
Described by the doyenne of Indian food, Madhur Jaffrey, as the love child of a crêpe and a crumpet, it's golden and crisp at the edges and doughy in the centre. And instead of being topped with boring Nutella, it's filled with fragrant Sri Lankan curries (karis), spicy relishes (sambals) and - if you're feeling very decadent - a whole egg, baked into the base.
"Hoppers are fun and a bit different," says chef Emily Dobbs, who serves the pancakes at her street food stall, Weligama, at London's Druid Street market, every weekend. "You can eat them with your hands, wrapping the whole thing up. They're like a healthy burger - for those who don't mind a bit of dribble!"
Dodds, who worked at various top London restaurants including Spring at Somerset House and Ducksoup in Soho, was inspired to start her hopper business when visiting her uncle in Sri Lanka. The pancakes have been a staple food there - as in south India, where they are known as appam - for thousands of years.
Britons, however, were so confused by the concept that at first she was forced to make an explanatory sign: "A fermented pancake made out of rice flour and coconut milk. It's nice!"
Now, on a good day of trading, she sells up to 150. And she's not the only one juggling traditional hopper pans (or appachatti) like there's no tomorrow.
The Sethis - the family restaurateurs behind London's award-winning Gymkhana and Trishna - jumped on the trend last autumn with Hoppers, a no-reservations Sri Lankan restaurant for which the queues are regularly up to four hours long.
In Essex, there is Ilford's Hopperbox, which sells both the traditional version and string hoppers: thin rice-flour noodles, squashed together to form dense discs, then doused with a gently spiced coconut gravy. And in Brighton, the hoppers at Sri Lankan restaurant Moonstone are so good, singer-songwriter Nick Cave is reputedly a regular.
"What makes a hopper so delicious is the slight sourness and combination of textures: the crisp outside, tapering down to a spongy centre, perfect for soaking up the karis," explains Hoppers' Karam Sethi.
One of Britain's biggest champions of hoppers - and Sri Lankan cuisine in general - is Rob Green, formerly of Elliot's Café in London's buzzing Borough Market, who now runs the tiny lakeside Pavilion Café in Hackney's Victoria Park (signature dish: the Sri Lankan breakfast, featuring brown rice flour hoppers, egg and tomato curry, daal and a fiery coconut sambal).
He fell in love with Sri Lankan food while running a tea export company in the country, and now has a"trusted team" of Sri Lankan chefs, who have shared with him the recipes they inherited from their mothers.
"With the civil war over in Sri Lanka, people are rediscovering the place and its food," he says. "It's lighter than Indian, more fragrant, healthier and super-colourful: from the hills to the coast they have great extremes, from the buffalo curd and jaggery syrups towards the coast, then the hills where it's all jackfruits and okra curries."
So sure is he that Sri Lankan is the next big food trend that by the end of the year he will launch a Sri Lankan delivery service.
So what if you want to have a stab at making hoppers yourself? The problem, as Dodds found out the hard way, is that they are rather more difficult than a conventional pancake: "I spent months trying out different recipes, different temperatures, pans... and running around Sri Lankan areas such as South Harrow and Tooting asking random people questions!"
But if you're feeling brave, Sethi recommends sourcing "ready-made hopper mix [available in some ethnic shops] and a non-stick pan, then cooking with coconut, red chilli, lime, shallots and an egg". Crêpes, eat your heart out. The Telegraph