November 18, 2012

Rava Upma (Semolina upma)

    Rava upma or uppuma is a southern breakfast delicacy which is tastiest when lapped up piping hot. Have it as is, eat it with your favorite pickle, thick coconut chutney, oodles of curd or my childhood favorite...sugar :) The origin of the upma is from the concatenation of two words, namely 'uppu' (salt) and 'maavu' (flour), which was intended to mean 'salted flour'. Well, I don't know how salty it was originally meant to be, but most people I am sure add palatable amounts of salt to the dish. Aha, this reminds me of an 1970's anecdote my mother once told me. Apparently, a north Indian friend of my parents was very keen on making rava upma for a picnic. The friend was so carried away by the literal name of the dish, that he ended up adding tonnes of salt to it...and it really became 'uppu-mavu', so very salty, no one could even taste it! :)) Upma is mostly called upma in most places in the south, but region specific names would be calling it Uppittu in Karnataka, Uppindi in Andhra and Uppumavu in Kerala. The famous Kharabath of Karnataka is upma with sambhar powder and garam masala added to it....a real compliment to the sweet Kesaribath or Sheera (Rava Kesari /Sooji halwa). Upma is easy to make. You stir fry rava (semolina), season it with mustard seeds and curry leaves, add fried veggies with green chillies, then cook the rava in water with salt. A lot of people hate eating upma as it tastes bland most of the time, reason being that masalas and chilli powder are not added to this dish. Moreover, upma is more on the greasy side as you have to be a bit generous with the oil used for seasoning :) Upma made with very little oil is totally unpalatable. It tastes as though the rava has been cooked  only in water or as my husband would call it.... 'Concrete' ! And it is lumpy. I bear testimony to this, as my first attempts at making upma were disastrous. I could only make a lumpy white substance which I called 'my rava upma'.


Rava (Sooji) - 2 tea cups
Onion - 1 thinly sliced
Carrots - 1 (chopped into small pieces)
Beans - 4 
Peas - 1/4 to 1/2 cup ( use fresh or frozen peas)
Cauliflower - 2 to 3 florets
Tomato - 1 (finely chopped)
Green chilly - 2 (slit vertically)
Turmeric powder - a pinch (optional)
Asafoetida powder( Hing) - a pinch
Salt - according to taste
Water - 4 tea cups (ratio of rava and water should be 1:2) 

For seasoning:

Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Channa dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3
Oil - 3 to 4 tbsps


1) Heat a kadai or any thick bottomed saucepan on high flame. Once it is hot enough, reduce the heat to low and roast the rava till the raw smell leaves, taking care not to burn it. Remove the roasted rava before it turns a golden brown. Its alright if there are a few specks of slightly browned rava :) Set aside on a plate.

Roasted Rava (Sooji)

2) In the same kadai, heat oil and when it is hot enough, add the mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, slit green chillies, curry leaves and hing. When the mustard seeds start spluttering, add the onions. Fry them till they are translucent, then add the tomatoes and fry again.
3) Now add the remaining veggies, namely carrots, chopped beans, peas and the cauliflower and fry till they just change color, but remain slightly crunchy. I prefer my upma veggies to be slightly crunchy, so I don't fry them too long :) I usually reach out for the English veggies  while making upma, but you can use just about any veggie you want like potatoes and capsicum. You might like to refrain from using veggies like brinjal and lady's finger though ;)
4) Once the vegetables are cooked or fried to your heart's desire, add water with salt and turmeric powder, if you wish to dig into a yellow colored upma. Upma, to me has mostly been a pearly white, so I seldom add turmeric powder, unless I feel I want a change in appeal. I  also add 1 or 2 extra cups of water, as I find adding more water cooks the rava better. Moreover, my husband likes his upma to be of a gooey consistency, rather than the grainy texture produced by adding water in the 1:2 ratio. 

Water with salt kept for boiling
5) Allow the water to boil. This should take about 2 minutes. Once the water starts boiling, reduce the flame to medium low and add the roasted rava. Try to add the rava at one go and stir immediately to prevent the formation of lumps. Take care when you add the rava as it will tend to splatter and you don't want to get singed by hot rava :) Keep stirring till the rava gets cooked. You will notice that the rava will absorb all the water and the upma will start to become thick. Once done, switch off the heat and dig into hot rava upma :))

Upma Ready!

Serving Size: Above recipe will serve two people for two helpings.

Note: You can also try mixing the roasted rava with the stir fried veggies and freezing it in a zip lock bag or any thick polythene bag in the freezer. This mixture should stay for a month or two at most. As and when you wish to make upma, just boil water with salt and add the rava (you don't have to thaw the rava as you will be adding it to boiling water) .... you will get instant upma. I have tried doing this and it is a time saver :)  I tried making this after a month of freezing my home made upma mixture. Here are the steps to make this an easy recipe:

1) Heat some oil and do thadka (seasoning) with the mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, hing, green chillies and curry leaves.
2) Add onions and other veggies when the mustard starts to splutter. Add turmeric powder and fry the veggies till they are crunchy. Then, add the unroasted rava and fry again till the raw smell of the rava is gone. Alternately, you can roast the rava before hand and then mix it to the veggies.
3) Cool this mixture well before freezing it in the freezer.

Roasted rava with the stir fried veggies and seasoning
4) Boil water in the 1:2 ratio or 1:3 ratio as mentioned above, add salt according to taste (this includes salt for the veggies and rava as well). Remember you cannot adjust salt once the rava is added or when the upma is done. Upma by itself is a very bland dish and that's why most people avoid eating it. So just make sure that your water does not taste very salty and has just the right tinge of salt in it :)
5) Add the rava with fried veggies and stir till it is done. Serve the upma with coconut chutney or your favorite pickle or sugar.