It has often received a rap as being the last resort – the easy to make dish that people turn to when they are short of time or resources. Upma, primarily a breakfast or tiffin item in South India, is never seen in a glamorous light. But this humble dish rose to worldwide acclaim when Mumbai-born chef Floyd Cardoz cooked it in the Top Chef Masters contest in Los Angeles (2011) – and won the top prize of USD 100,000!
Also known as uppumavu or uppittu, the dish is made from dry roasted semolina or coarse rice flour, which is cooked with boiling water to make a thick porridge. The savoury dish is usually seasoned with salt, mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida and green chillis. Chopped vegetables are added for taste and nutrition. There are regional and individual variations that use poha (flattened rice) or corn as well.
The use of minimal oil (since hot water is used to cook the semolina or rice) makes this a healthy recipe, and one that is suited for most meals. The addition of vegetables ensures nutrients and fibre.