Semolina or Sooji Upma

By Published On: 2 Jul '21Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

Sooji Upma is my go-to breakfast with a combination of textures, earthy and savoury flavours plus the added benefit of many nutrients including fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Upma also known as rava, rulavn (Konkani), sooji, uppumavu (Tamil), uppindi (Telugu), uppittu (Kannada), chow chow bath (Bangalore) is a popular south Indian weekday or weekend savoury breakfast, traditionally made from wheat semolina.

There are many versions of upma starting with basic to some very delicious variations with vegetables and you can make it as simple or as colourful as you fancy. The uses of semolina are endless, as it is also used to make a variety of sweet preparations such a sheera, a dessert, either by adding mango, pineapple and sapota (chikku). It can also be used as a base to make idli (steamed rice cakes), dosa (fermented or non-fermented rice pancakes). I also use semolina as a coating when frying fish. Semolina comes in two grades, coarse and fine but over here what is sold as coarse is still very fine in texture. I have improvised with the grade that is available here and hence the texture in the image might appear slightly different to what some of you may be used to eating.

According to Times of India dated 17 June 2011, this humble breakfast and tiffin staple gained international culinary limelight in New York when Mumbai-born Floyd Cardoz was asked to prepare an item based on food memories at the Top Chef Masters Season 3 2011 contest in Los Angeles and he whipped up an upma of semolina and mushroom. This upma stunned food critics and viewers with Floyd beating two other favourite contestants, winning the top prize of $100,000.00. Floyd then donated his prize money to the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund in memory of his father, who died of cancer. Floyd was the co-founder of Tabla, an upscale Indian restaurant in New York in collaboration with Danny Meyer. He also owned many restaurants subsequent to Tabla. He was named among the “Top 50 Most Influential Global Indians” by GQ Magazine in 2011. Sadly, he died in 2020 at the age of 59 but he holds a special place in the hearts of many people forever.

Moving on to upma, the beautiful area in which I live is many things but certainly not known for great authentic South Indian food!!!! I grew up eating upma and although I still love it, it is not available close to home.

All those lovely Indian people who immigrated to Sydney must learn to prepare upma at home because it is much easier than driving to far-away suburbs looking for Indian breakfast in general. What’s best is you can cater it to suit the taste of your family. As my family loves upma with colourful vegetables, I cook with vegetables that compliment upma. One vegetable that is hardly ever eaten in our house is Brussels sprouts and is one vegetable that I like to add in my upma. This vegetable resembles a mini cabbage and is a member of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables. It is related to cauliflower and kale and offers several significant health benefits as they are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin K-1, Vitamin B-6, Folate and Potassium. When added to upma, it tastes sweet and delicious. In addition, I like to add carrot, tomato and peas for colour, a couple or two green chillies for spice and ginger for a bit of flavour. Its always nice to have a bit of crunch and for that I add roasted peanuts.

You can use this recipe to use up any leftover vegetables you may have in your refrigerator. Please go ahead and experiment with different vegetables and make it your own.

How to make Semolina Upma (Sooji Upma)

A good seasoning is an easy way to make this semolina delicious and this seasoning includes some of the most basic Indian pantry ingredients such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds etc., The trick is to dry roast the semolina before you cook it because roasting brings out the flavour while cooking it slightly during the roasting process.

I know now that the ratio of semolina to water is of utmost importance for the success of this recipe. What works best for me is 1:2¾. So, for this recipe, I use 1 cup of semolina to 2¾ cups of water, and this works out perfectly for me.

It kicks off with an aromatic seasoning made up of ghee, asafoetida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves followed by the addition of colourful vegetables sauteed for a few minutes just to soften them and finishes off by adding semolina in a steady stream.

Once all the semolina is added, the final step is to add the boiling water to the semolina and vegetable mixture and let cook till semolina is just done. This usually takes only 4 to 5 minutes on a low flame as roasted semolina does not take long to cook.

Finally, squeezing lemon juice brings out the flavours, so don’t forget this step before you serve.

The texture of the final dish depends on the grade of semolina that you purchase. You may like to use a different grade or brand, if you are unsatisfied with the texture after following these steps.

Delish!!!

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Semolina or Sooji Upma

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
A basic upma (South Indian breakfast) is really delicious but why have the same same every time when you can add some colourful vegetables with this super delicious spin on an old favourite!  This upma is based on a traditional recipe but paired with vegetables such as brussels sprouts and zucchini, as they not only add colour but when sauteed bring out the sweet and nutty tones.  It’s my go-to breakfast with a combination of textures, earthy and savoury flavours plus the added benefit of many nutrients including fibre, vitamins and minerals
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting time 5 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup coarse semolina
  • tsp. salt or to taste
  • 3 tbsp. ghee or ¼ cup vegetable oil clarified butter
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 strand curry leaves
  • 200 g brussels sprouts halved
  • 1 large tomato chopped 300g
  • 1 zucchini roughly diced 125g or one carrot roughly chopped
  • 3 green chillies slit or to taste
  • 1 tbsp. roasted peanuts
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped ginger
  • ¾ cup frozen peas defrosted
  • cup boiling water
  • 2 tbsp. coriander leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Lemon wedge for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Heat a medium size heavy based non-stick frying pan on medium flame and roast the semolina slightly (approximately 4 to 6 minutes) stirring constantly to avoid scorching or burning. Watch closely as semolina should not turn brown from bottom. Remove from pan and transfer semolina to another bowl.
  • Add 2¾ cup water and salt to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and keep hot.
  • While the semolina is roasting, heat a heavy based medium size saucepan with a lid on medium and add ghee. When the ghee is shimmering, add the asafoetida and let it sizzle.
  • Add mustard seeds and when they pop, add cumin seeds. Add curry leaves and when they splutter, add the brussels sprouts, tomato, zucchini/carrot, green chillies, peanuts and ginger. Add ¾ cup water, place lid on and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add peas. Stir to combine and cook for one minute.
  • Add the roasted semolina in a steady stream. Stir to combine with the vegetables.
  • Bring the water in the saucepan to the boil. Add half the hot water to the vegetable mixture and mix well. Add rest of the hot water, stir well, cover lid and cook on lowest flame for 5 minutes or until semolina is cooked. Open the lid once during cooking and give it a quick stir. Season to taste if required. Remove from heat. Open lid and stir gently. Cover lid and rest for 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves and a drizzle of lemon juice with a side of filter coffee or chai. You may serve with plain coconut chutney or spicy pickles of your choice.

Notes

  1. To speed up cooking, you may dry roast sooji or semolina in advance and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks for use as required. Cool completely before storing. To extend the shelf life, please avoid contact with moisture.
  2. You may add ½ tsp. vegetable stock powder in step 4 along with vegetables for a deeper savoury taste.
  3. You may add a handful of chopped spinach in step 5 along with peas.
  4. You may add some ghee just before serving for that additional flavour touch.
  5. You may serve with your favourite coconut chutney or coconut chutney powder. If you are using coconut chutney powder as a garnish, sprinkle the lemon juice on to the upma first and then sprinkle coconut chutney powder.
  6. As an additional tip to all the Sydneysiders, I buy a brand of coconut chutney powder called Double Horse from my local Indian supermarket and it tastes delicious with this Upma.
Keyword Rulavn, Sajjige, Sooji, South Indian Breakfast, Upma, Uppittu

Upma served with Coconut Chutney Powder and lemon wedges

Upma served with ghee (clarified butter) and lemon wedges

Vegetable Upma with Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas and toasted peanuts served with ghee and lemon wedges

Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!

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