Upma: Savory Semolina

Tiffin is an Indian English word that basically means light meal. In South India, where my husband is from, the term is generally used for between-meals snacks: this could be anything from dosas, idlis, pooris, and even the dish featured here: upma. Sometimes, the word tiffin may also refer to a light meal of lunch or dinner. In Malaysia, we don’t use this word for light meals although Malaysians are probably familiar with the term tiffin carrier – a multi-tiered food carrier.

Upma is a very easy to prepare dish and we usually have it either as a hearty breakfast or for dinner when we want to end the day with something light. Since upma happens to be hubby and baby’s favorite, it's a regular in my home. Back in Malaysia, I remember savoring this dish in temples, usually served after certain special prayers are held.
Upma is the Indian version of a dish which is now popular in America as couscous. Cream of wheat, semolina or more popularly known in Malaysia as suji is cooked in flavored boiling water till fluffy.

While couscous may be cooked in chicken broth, upma is usually made as a vegetarian dish – cut vegetable pieces stir fried with peanuts or cashews, onions, curry leaves and dried chilies and even grated coconut. To this savory stir fry, water is added (semolina:water = 1:2) and brought to a boil. Then, the semolina is added into the boiling water and stirred consistently till all the water is absorbed.

It can be eaten on its own or with chutneys, vegetable gravy, yogurt or even with some sprinkled sugar.

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