Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, May 21

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Tuesday Quick Links Out Hottest Spots? »

Recipe Wed May 02 2007

Breakfast from India: Savory, Fluffy and Wholesome Upma

Upma and Coconut Chutney.jpg

You'll find upma for breakfast inside homes in parts of India. It's just as satisfying in Chicago - a savory, fluffy wholesome dish made from coarsely ground wheat. I had some cooking - the way I learned from Satya's mom in Bombay - as my friend Arline rolled in with Medjool dates, lovely tender olives and two spinach pies from the Middle East Bakery. We loaded a bounty of the dates - more than we could eat. "The feeling of plenty is always nice," Arline elaborated. As I bit into the spinach, the olive oil inside tasted incredible. "They know what they're doing with olive oil," Arline said. "They're not skimping."

Upma comes loaded with veggies, but they were mostly on vacation in my version this time - no peas or cauliflower like Satya's mom showed me because I didn't have them handy. This upma did have carrots - orange instead of the red Delhi carrots she used in India. Aside from my deviations, it turned out just as fluffy and tasty. You can find the wheat, called rava (labeled Upma Rava), from Patel Brothers on Devon Avenue - but you can also buy it as the coarsely ground wheat semolina that is more commonly found here. I've bought fresh curry leaves for this dish a few doors down at Fresh Farms. Upma's great with a side of plain soy yogurt; and it's good leftover cold. We ate it with cups of Nescafé, the instant coffee that seems big in India.

Upma: Satya's Mom's way
2 cups rava (coarsely ground wheat semolina)
1 handful of split black gram
1 handful black mustard seeds
2 handfuls cashews, preferably raw
1 handful curry leaves, preferably fresh
1 two-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 small fresh green chilies, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 handfuls peas
2 handfuls cauliflower, chopped
Groundnut (peanut) oil
4 cups water

First, lightly toast 2 cups of semolina (medium-ground wheat) for about four minutes in a large pan on medium heat, tossing it about in the pan to keep from burning, then put it aside in a bowl. Alternatively, sometimes instant semolina, couscous or vermicelli are used. Second, lightly toast a few pinches of black gram, mustard seeds and cashews in the pan for a few minutes, then add enough groundnut oil to make it all swim just a bit. Later, add curry leaves, then fresh ginger, green chilies, and onion, and cook until a bit tender. Next, add cauliflower, peas, carrots and enough salt to bring out all the flavors - but not so much it tastes salty. Stir it all around a bit, then add 4 cups water and cover until hot. Finally, stir in the toasted semolina, cover the pot again, and check and stir every minute. Cook until the semolina is fluffy and tender and serve straight away.

Upma in Bombay

Making Upma.jpg
Making Upma-2.jpg
Semolina toasted, then removed and put aside
Making Upma-6.jpg
Split black gram and black mustard seeds in groundnut (peanut) oil
Making Upma-7.jpg
Cashews added
Making Upma-9.jpg
Cashews browning
Making Upma-10.jpg
Fresh curry leaves added
Making Upma-11.jpg
Onions added
Making Upma-14.jpg
Cauliflower, peas, and red Delhi carrots added
Making Upma-15.jpg
Making Upma-17.jpg
Stirred and covered
Making Upma-18.jpg
Toasted semolina added
Making Upma-19.jpg
Making Upma-21.jpg
More thickening
Making Upma-22.jpg
Still thickening
Making Upma-23.jpg
Upma and Coconut Chutney.jpg
Upma - served wth coconut chutney
Nescafe-2.jpgNescafé and soymilk - poured back and forth until frothy One Soy Nescafe.jpg
Nescafé served

Chris' Upma in Chicago

Coarsely Ground Wheat (Rava) for Upma.jpg
Toasted coarsely ground wheat (rava) being put aside
Split black gram- mustard seeds and cashews for Upma.jpg
Split black gram, black mustard seeds and cashews
Split black gram- mustard seeds and cashews in groundnut oil for Upma-2.jpg
Groundnut (peanut) oil added
Split black gram- mustard seeds- cashews and curry leaves in groundnut oil for Upma.jpg
Curry leaves added
Split black gram- mustard seeds- cashews- curry leaves- ginger and chili in groundnut oil for Upma.jpg
Ginger and chili added
Split black gram- mustard seeds- cashews- curry leaves- ginger and chili in groundnut oil for Upma-3.jpg
Nicely browning
upma with red onions.jpg
Onions added
salt for upma.jpg
Carrots and salt added
water in upma.jpg
Water added
Chris adding Rava (ground wheat) for Upma Sequence (photo- Arline)-3.jpg
Chris adding coarsely ground wheat (rava) (photo: Arline)
Upma cooking.jpg
Upma thickening
Thickening more
Upma finished - with olives, spinach pies and Medjool dates
Upma. Fluffy and Good.jpgFluffy and good
Arline Sequence with Coffee Cups-1.jpg
Arline with cups of Nescafé - the instant coffee that seems big in India
Middle East Bakery's Spinach Pie.jpg
Spinach pie from the Middle East Bakery
GB store

Illinois Master Gardener / May 3, 2007 6:19 AM

I love the step by step photographs of both the Indian version and the American version.

What a delicious sounding/looking meal!

Taylor / May 3, 2007 8:36 AM

Wow, I've never heard of this dish but it looks amazing! I think I'll have to give it a shot one of these weeks. Thanks for sharing!!

GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

GB store



Drive-Thru on Flickr

Join the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Robyn Nisi,
Drive-Thru staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15