Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Upma (South Indian Breakfast Dish)

 This is a very special dish for me because it takes me back to my childhood. My mother would make Upma every now and then and I was always first in line to get seconds because it's one of my absolute favorite dishes.  It's such a simple dish and for those of you that are not sure what it is, it's like a very fine grain cous-cous pilaf.  Upma is actually made with semolina (called rava or suji in India).  This dish can be eaten all by itself or with any meat or vegetable curry. I like it both ways and always make a big pan of it so I have it for a breakfast for a week (if it lasts that long).  My mother and I had a cooking day recently and she helped me make this because I wanted her recipe to be posted. I consider her version of Upma the best out there and everyone that has eaten her version agrees.

2 cups dry semolina or suji (available in Indian stores)
1 medium onion sliced or chopped
2-3 green chilies sliced
handful of curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
red chili flakes to taste
dried whole chilies (broken) to taste
salt to taste
1 Tbs of canola oil
3-4 cups boiling water (boil water in a kettle and have ready)

The first step is to take the dry semolina/suji and roast it in a pan.  Set the heat at medium-high and gently stir it until the light cream colored grains turns more tan.  This will take several minutes.  Be careful not to burn the grains.   This is an important and necessary step for a light fluffy dish.  Not doing this step will cause the grains to stick together.  Once the suji is roasted set aside.  Boil your water at this time and have it ready as well.
Note: there are packages of pre-roasted suji, but we recommend roasting it yourself because it gives the best result.

In a large pan heat canola oil and add onions, green chilies, curry leaves, cinnamon stick, salt and red chili pieces. Fry for 3-4 minutes until onions become soft.  Then add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and red chile pieces. Fry for another 2-3 minutes.
Next add the roasted suji to the frying pan and mix with all the fried ingredients. Salt as needed (since this is a grain you may need more salt than you think).  Slowly add the boiling water and mix with the upma. Add 2 cups first and then the final cup. The grains will "steam" and become lighter. Taste the grains, if the grains are not soft and fluffy add a little more water.  Stir with a wooden spoon well.  My mother actually recommends taking the wooden spoon and stirring with the thinner handle part in circles around the pan to make sure the grains separate well and become fluffy. Once the grains are almost to the right texture, turn off the stove and cover with a lid for 10 minutes to steam a little more. Stir, taste for seasoning and serve.  Enjoy.
Note:  I recommend you use a pan you can stir aggressively with a wooden spoon.  A stainless steel based pan  is best since a non-stick could get scratched.

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  1. I've seen this before here, but never knew what it was. It looks and sou ds great. I prefer savory things for breakfast but I usually just go with eggs and hash browns. This would be great to change it up!

  2. This is something which I have to still try bowl looks delicious

  3. Love this yummy upma,can have it anytime.

  4. Oh, what a flavorful breakfast dish...and such nice memories that come with every bite :)

  5. This looks fabulous! I love the wonderful memories this brings to you!

  6. Looks delicious! Maybe not what I think about for breakfast, but I'd be very curious to try!

  7. I love to sweeten up life for breakfast but would be very happy to have this for lunch or dinner. :)

  8. Oh, I am going to have to try this with Quinoa instead so my daughter can enjoy it. It looks sooo good and low calorie!

  9. I have lunch @ Tatse of India today,everything was delicious,,, Interesting breakfast food idea , looks so flavorful !!

  10. This looks so delicious - many of my friends are from South India talk about this fish non stop so it's nice to finally try it :D
    Wonderful post!

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. How cool to see one of your childhood dishes. I've never heard of this even remotely. Heck, this is my first time seeing curry leaves! It looks phenomenal, but I think I could eat it any time of the day, not just for breakfst!

  12. Ramona...I have been looking for more couscous recipes and so glad you posted a breakfast dish! LOVE those dishes that bring us back to our childhood. Your mom's recipe here looks delicious! And this would certainly wake me up in the morning! Hope you are having a GREAT week! : )

  13. think I'm going to try this for breakfast tomorrow!

  14. Ramona, you are so lucky to cook with your mom and keep the recipe for future so that you can make it again and again on your own!

  15. This is such a nice food memory....and I adore cous-cous! Thanks, Ramona!

  16. Food memories from our childhood are so special. This is my favorite kind of couscous - next time I make it, I'm going to spice it up and make upma for the first time!

  17. Ramona, this looks delicious and is my type of breakfast. How sweet to share your favorite childhood dish and how lucky to have your Mom there to show you. Have a wonderful day my friend.

  18. I've never had upma, but it sounds wonderful! Especially the chiles! :D

  19. This is truly gorgeous. I think this could change my mind about breakfast.

  20. I've never had Upma but I do love having semolina porridge for breakfast. I know I would love this since I prefer savory over sweets. Thanks for sharing, can't wait to try it!

  21. We have upma at least once a week for breakfast! I'm going to give your recipe a try next.


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