Upma/ Semolina Porridge

Let me start by sharing my first memory of eating Upma.  Before I do, I'll ask you to step into the shoes of a child who is 10-11 years old cause that is how old I think I was at the time. I was at someone's house and was quite 'hangry' as they now call it. It was evening time and my mom had forcibly taken me to this aunty's place instead of allowing me to play with friends. And well, instead of luring me with cakes or chocolates or pastries, this aunty had the audacity to keep something healthy as a snack! I mean come on! Where did she come from? Didn't she know children like chips and colas and all that junk food!! I was almost screaming in my head and grumbling inaudibly. And then the worst part came, I was given a bowlful of this porridge with vegetables. Ugh! What a gloopy mess it was and I was expected to clean it off to show my respect for the food served and to the hosts as well. 

So after that day, I could never stand the sight of Upma. Quite understandably, wouldn't you agree?! 

Incidentally, Upma just happens to be my mom's favourite breakfast dish/ daytime snack. She says that because it is quick and easy to make, light on the stomach and very healthy she prefers the homey comfort it provides. So fast forwarding to the present, about a fortnight back, mom had a flu and a fever along with it. Ofcourse I wanted her to have something comforting and quick and something that would nourish her when she was feeling ill. I first made her Tamatar ka Shorba (Indian style Tomato soup) which is one of her most favourite soups of all times cause it gave her warmth and the ginger in the soup helped open up her sinuses and relieved her cough for a bit. Along with the soup she asked me to make this Upma for her. Despite of not liking it one bit, I marched to the kitchen to make it and cutting the story short, mom loved it, ate it, got well. While Ma was relishing the upma while she was unwell, it made me want to give it another try too. Don't know what it was about it. I just wanted to. Maybe I was too tired to fix anything for myself so I just grabbed a bowl of it for me too and within 5 minutes, gobbled it all up. 

Man it was yummm!!! I don't know what happened. I can't explain why or how, but I just fell in love with it. And since that day, I have made and eaten it 3 more times within the fortnight. 

Now that you know how my love for Upma came to being, lets get cookin', shall we?! 

Serves: 4

Time taken: 30 mins

Complexity: **

You'll need  

1 1/2 cup roasted sooji (semolina)
2-3 tbsp flavourless oil
1 tbsp chana dal (split bengal gram- soaked overnight and drained)
1 tbsp urad dal (skinned black gram- soaked overnight and drained)
8-10 peanuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp black mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 whole green chili, thinly sliced
1" pc of ginger, finely minced
2 whole red chilies (remove seeds, optional)
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced finely
2/3 cup peas
salt to taste 
3 cups of water + 1/2 cup more if required
Coriander leaves to garnish
Pinch of love


If you don't have roasted suji on hand, just take the suji and dry roast it in a pan for atleast 10 minutes while stirring constantly on a medium low heat. The suji should emit a nutty aroma when cooked and should turn almost beige in colour. Set this aside for the time being. 

Gather your tempering ingredients. Having them mis-en-place which is french for ready to cook ensures that you don't forget to add anything. 

Next, in a medium sized pan, add the oil. Traditionally people use ghee in Upma but I skimped out as I wanted to keep it lighter. 

To begin tempering, I began by adding both the dals to the oil along with the peanuts. I don't bother skinning the peanuts. Don't worry, they won't harm you. 

Roast this in the oil for about 3-4 minutes till you get a whiff of that oil getting nutty and everything turning slightly golden. 

Now turn the heat to a medium and add in the black mustard seeds

The Curry leaves

the cumin seeds,

the thinly sliced green chili, and the minced ginger. 

Stir them all together and allow the mustard and cumin to crackle and splutter. Add the red chilies at this time too. 

After about 30 seconds, add in the chopped red onion and saute till the onion turns translucent. 

This should take a couple of minutes. Just keep moving them around in the pan. 

Next throw in the diced carrot. 

And the peas. Let the veggies cook for about 3-4 minutes till they soften a little but not all the way through. 

At this point, dump in the roasted suji. 

Add the salt and mix it all together. 

Add the water in a slow stream while stirring constantly. 

Don't worry if it looks all watery right now. Its going to be fine, I promise. 

In a minute or so, as you keep stirring, you'll notice the suji soaking up all the water. Its in a semi solid state now. I then added in the fresh herbalicious green coriander leaves and within a minute the upma was the exact consistency I wanted. 

If you now think it looks dry, you can choose to add some more water. I didn't need to do any of that. 

Turned out perfect! Ready to serve. 

The texture takes a little time to get used to, but its a porridge afterall. And it tastes amazingly delicious. That slight hint of heat with that earthy ginger-y flavour and that fresh coriander, the veggies running through it- simplicity at its best I'd say! 

Give it a go. Its going to change your life. Did mine! Brought me closer to my Ma- one spoonful at a time. Indulge! 


  1. I love that bowl and top you're serving in, any chance you know what it's called?


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