May 12, 2007


I was in Montreal last week and this time set a record of sorts by eating Indian food for most of my meals. I also had a discussion with my colleagues there about cooking Indian food and felt that there were a couple of easy things that would be nice for them to try out. One of them being Upma! Upma or Uppit is basically a south Indian (a little bit Maharashtrian also) dish which can be eaten for breakfast or an early evening snack or even light lunch or dinner. So its a pretty versatile dish in the sense of when one would want to eat it.

What you need to make Upma

  • 1 measure Semolina (Rava/Sooji/Cream of Wheat)
  • 1 and half measures Water
(To serve two people, two cups of semolina and 3 cups of water
should be good.)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 strand of coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 strand of curry leaves (optional) (whaddaya know, they do come out of a curry tree)
  • 2-4 green chillies
  • 1 spoon urad dal (white lentil)
  • 1 spoon chana dal (yellowish and made by splitting chickpea in half)
  • 1 spoon mustard (sarson/sasive)
  • 1 spoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 teaspoons of oil
Preparation for making Upma

  • Take a heavy bottomed vessel and put it on a low flame. Roast the semolina till it becomes a little brown or goldeny. It should be stirred continuosly to avoid burning.
  • Cut the onions into small pieces.
  • Wash and Cut the green chillies lengthwise if you want it to be spicier else cut it in circles.
  • Wash and cut the coriander into small pieces
  • Pluck the curry leaves . Do not use stem to cook. Wash and cut the curry leaves into small pieces
Method to make Upma

  • Heat a heavy bottomed vessel on a stove.
    • I always like to wash the vessels before I start cooking just to make sure no previous residue remains. We dont really use an mechanized dishwasher at home. The dishwasher is a lady who comes everyday to help with the house cleaning :)
  • When the vessel is nicely hot and there is no water in it put in the oil.
  • As the oil is getting hot add the mustard, channa dal, urad dal, jeera to it.
  • Wait till the mustard splutters and splits.
    • If you have never experienced this before keep a lid handy. As soon as mustard starts popping hold the lid in such a way that they dont fly into your face.
      Also, I would advice you to keep the flame low, one shouldnt end up frying the ingredients beyond recognition.
  • Add the turmeric and the chillies to the vessel.
  • Add the coriander and the curry leaves to the vessel.
  • Add the onions to the vessel and allow it to fry. You will know if its done when the onion turns glowy and soft to the touch.
  • Now add water to the vessel, keep the flame low and allow it to simmer.
  • When the water begins to boil, add salt.
  • This is the point when I taste the stuff just to make sure everything is right.
    • You know my mantra (if you have read my earlier blogs) - add sugar if the stuff is too hot.
  • When the water is on a full boil, semolina needs to be put in.
    • Herein lies the art of Upma - With one hand you need to stir the water continously and with the other pour the semolina slowly but steadily into the water. This is done inorder to avoid lumps.
  • The mixture in the vessel would have solidified to a large extent. Stir and fold the mixture evenly throughout.
  • Keep the flame low and allow it to simmer for five minutes.
My fundas

  • You could use vegetables like french beans, carrot or peas or all of these in Upma. It tastes excellent. All you need to do is to pre cook these vegetables and keep them ready. Put it in after the onion is fried before water is added.
  • You could garnish Upma with fried cashwenuts and/or coconut.
  • You could serve it with coconut chutney which I will post next.
  • A south Indian would wash down a plate of hot Upma with a hot cup of coffee. (R.K.Narayan style)


  1. Christine from MontrealMay 14, 2007 at 8:25 AM

    Thanks for the recipe Siri! Any idea how much the omission of coriander would alter this dish? My bf cannot stand the scent of coriander which he claims is, to him, like garlic to a vampire.

  2. Not much at all Christine. Just go ahead without it, you would miss on a little aroma and ofcourse a little colour but no big issues :)
    Vampires can be driven away with garlics? I think you just solved my nightmares :))

  3. Thanks for responding to my question about the cast iron pan from Thanai's blog, Siri! I have never cooked Indian food, so I have a question about the mustard in this recipe. Is it a dry powder? Or is it liquid like the mustard we squirt on hotdogs and hamburgers in the U.S.? If it is liquid, is it best to use yellow mustard, brown mustard, or dijon mustard? I'm laughing because this question seems silly, but I want to make sure I understand your ingredients. Thanks!

  4. Malissa (i like the sound of your name), Mustard used in Indian cooking is not at all the liquidy version used on hotdogs. Its infact mustard seeds that are very small and dark brown in colour. Refer to my post to know what it looks like. Its a great ingredient and used for seasoning (seasoning is where you fry a few spices in hot oil, gives the flavour to the dish) in almost all indian dishes. I hope its more clear to you now. Do you have an external food blog?


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