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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Upma - A Farina/Semolina Dish

Upma is a popular snack found almost everywhere in India (well at least the places that I have visited). It is a snack which is as popular as "Poha" and is just as widespread in availability. It is called many names like Uppit, Uppitu, Rava Upma, Sooji Upma, Sanja and so on (just the various names I know it by). It is made out of semolina, which is a wheat product.  It can be made using just onions for seasoning or with a lot of vegetables. It is a very flexible dish, u can use fine or coarse semolina, add as many vegetables as you want and totally make it your own. However, there are some basic principles that must be followed when making it, else the end product becomes dense and lumpy and is not appetizing at all.

Though this is a relatively easy dish, that I have made several times, I had never gotten results that would make me take a picture of the dish and I was never been happy with it. In fact it is one dish I try to avoid cooking, if possible. However, three weeks ago I finally had the bright idea to ask my Mom for her recipe (you would think that I would have the good sense to ask earlier, no??).  After talking to her I realized where I made an error and was able to satisfactorily correct it. Within the past two weeks I have already made this recipe twice with fantastic results and a lot of compliments. I  am quite sure that I will now be making it as frequently as I make my other go to snack - "Pohe". So for all of you out there that see upma as a challenge, this recipe will help you get great results.

1/4 cup oil/ghee (clarified butter)
1 cup semolina/sooji/rava/farina
2-2.5 cups water
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1  tsp urad dal
a pinch of asafoetida
8-10 curry leaves
a couple of green/red chillies, to taste, sliced into a couple of pieces
1 tsp ginger and green chilli paste
1/4 cup onion, diced finely
1/2 tomato, diced finely
1/4 cup cauliflower florets, diced/separated into small florets
1/4 cup potato, diced
1/8 cup peas
1/8 cup green beans, diced finely
1/8 cup carrots, diced finely
3-4 black pepper pods
1/8 tsp cumin seeds

In a pan, take the rava and roast it on medium heat. You  need to roast it till you start smelling the cooked aroma of the semolina and it no longer has the raw smell. It will be lightly browned. Keep aside.
Start heating the water. The water must be boiling when it is used, so it is important to start heating it in parallel while starting to work on the seasoning. Crush the cumin seeds and peppercorns to a coarse powder and keep aside
In a deep pan, heat the oil/ghee. To it add the mustard seeds and once they crackle, add the urad dal, curry leaves, green/red chillies. Once the urad dal turns slightly brown, add the onions and the ginger-chilli paste. Cook the onions till transparent, then add the rest of the vegetables. Cook the vegetables completely. Then add the salt and add the sugar. Then, add the roasted rava and stir till the rava is well coated with oil. Cook it for a couple of minutes.
At this phase add the crushed cumin and peppercorn to the boiling water. Then pour the water to the rava and stir well. Cover the pan and let it cook. Cook this covered for about five to seven minutes, stirring it occassionally, so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
The rava will fluff up and the volume will double. Add cilantro and turn off the heat. Then when it has cooled for a couple of minutes, squeeze the lemon juice and mix. Also, at this phase you can add a tsp of ghee/clarified butter. If you have cooked it in ghee, then it is not necessary to add ghee to at the end.

You can also roast the rava in the microwave. Stir after every minute and after the first couple of minutes, roast it in 30 second intervals. Do this till the rava loses its raw smell. You can then store it as well.  Store it once it has cooled down.
Do not skimp on the oil. The main reason why my upma turned out not so good was because I was using about 1 tbsp oil and that is very less and will make the rava sticky. Also fry the rava for a few minutes in oil, so that it gets coated with the oil, so it will not stick to each other that much when you add water. You can also use ghee/clarified butter instead of oil to make the upma. This will make it very rich and tasty.
The water that is added in at the end must be at a rolling boil and not just hot. It is convenient if you start heating the water in a pan at the same time that you start heating the oil or even a couple of minutes before that.
You can use a combination of any of the vegetables listed above. For one cup rava, you can use a maximum of about 1 cup of vegetables (upto 1/4 cup less or more). Try and cut all the vegetables to about the same size.
You can also skip all the additional vegetables and use only onion to season it. It even tastes great with just onions and a little tomato.
To make ginger and chilli paste, grind together 1 inch ginger along with 1-2 green chillies and some salt. Then use the required amount.


  1. yes you said correct...it is very popular breakfast in India and also very very easy to prepare...Thanks for ur different method

  2. Thanks Kiran. Glad you liked the recipe. I would love to know how you make it as well.