Upma (oopma) or thick Indian style Porridge is a very popular south Indian breakfast dish. It is made from semolina which is wonderfully yet simply spiced to give it a very thick porridge like consistency. I would call it thick Indian style porridge.
In my boarding school, every Thursday upma was served. I ate it the first time when I shifted from the north-eastern Indian state of Assam to beautiful picturesque Mussoorie in Northern India. As an Assamese, I only knew that rava/sooji/semolina could be eaten sweet and never pondered on whether it was cooked the same way all over the country. I was baffled at the thought of having savory semolina nonetheless, I ate it. My palate could taste it savory deliciousness however, my mind was not ready to accept it. I tried it a couple of times before I actually started liking this.
Two years later when I left the boarding school, I wanted to replicate the process of cooking it but failed miserably every time. It felt as if the semolina was revoltingly denying being the same taste. I gave up!!
People say Failure is the pillar of success and Years later, I, still, was stuck at finding my perfect upma recipe. Finally, after multiple letdowns and disappointments, I managed to cook upma. Of course, it is a modified version of the original recipe.
Although the list of ingredients looks lengthy, this is a fairly easy recipe. As for a matter of fact, it takes only about 15-20 minutes to prepare and the only balance that you need to worry about is the salt and sweet.
For the Upma:
1 cup Semolina (roasted)
2 medium onions sliced
2-3 green chilies chopped
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp Whole cumin
1 tsp Bengal gram/chana dal and skinned and split urad dal
8-10 fresh curry leaves
A handful of cashews
2 – 2 ½ cups of water
2 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
1 inch piece of ginger
A tsp of chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp of Desiccated coconut
Salt and Sugar to taste
Heat a wok, pour the oil and add the Bengal gram, urad dal, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. As soon as the seeds start to pop, add the curry leaves. Once the ingredients release its entire aroma, put in the cashews and the green chilies and fry them until you achieve a luscious brown coating on them and then add the sliced onion and cook until they turn translucent. Sprinkle a dash of salt on the onions to speed up the process.
Add the semolina and stir for few minutes on high flame. Once again you will be able to smell the perfume of the spices and the semolina releasing a very toasty and appetizing aroma. Add the 2 and ½ cups of water and season it generously. At this stage, add the desiccated coconut, the water will hydrate the dried coconut and it will release its entire flavor into the porridge. The idea behind adding the salt and sugar (almost in equal quantities) is to balance the saltiness and the sweetness together. The heat should come from the chilies thereby making it an extremely delectable. Let it come to a bubble. Keep stirring. You will see that the mixture thickens up immediately and let all the water be soaked by the grains.
As soon as the semolina will be cooked, it will start to come away from the wok when you stir. It should look a little clumpy but that is okay. Add the minced ginger to the ghee and drizzle it on the semolina. Stir, rather vigorously, to combine. Garnish with the coriander and serve piping hot with Masala tea or Coffee.