Semiya Upma — A South Indian breakfast classic dish made with vermicelli and veggies. This dish pairs greatly with some homemade coconut chutney or onion raita. And, if you ask us, it's unbeatable when served alongside ketchup and boiled eggs.
Let's be real, nailing the perfect Semiya Upma can be a struggle. I've had my fair share of sticky, clumpy batches, and I was almost ready to throw in the towel. But then, Mom came to the rescue with some game-changing tips shared on our family WhatsApp group. It turns out, the key lies in the cooking method and getting that elusive water-to-semiya ratio just right!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's a simple ingredients list that you will need to make this Semiya Upma:
- vermicelli pasta: This recipe calls for durum wheat vermicelli pasta and not millet-based sevai like ragi sevai. In a pinch, you can use broken angel hair pasta as a substitute.
- ghee: If you prefer a non-dairy option or are out of ghee, you can use vegetable oil or coconut oil.
- mustard seeds
- chana dal: Yes, we will be using chana dal aka Bengal gram or split chickpeas. Trust me, tt will get cooked by the end of the time.
- urad dal
- cashews: If you're not a fan of cashews, you can use peanuts, or skip them altogether for a nut-free version.
- aromatics: curry leaves, ginger, green chillies, onion and coriander leaves.
- mixed veggies: I have used carrots, green peas or green beans, cauliflower florets etc. Feel free to mix and match your veggies based on what's in your fridge. Bell peppers, peas, corn, or even spinach can be great additions or substitutions.
- ground spices: turmeric and red chilli
- lime or lemon juice
See recipe card for quantities.
Semiya upma water ratio
I know most of you just want to know the ratio of water, right? 😁 Here you go... For every 1 cup of vermicelli (durum), you need 1½ cups of water. I am referring to the regular vermicelli pasta and not the thin roasted seviyan or semiya.
Alright, let's get into making some lip-smacking Semiya Upma for a delicious breakfast that's easier than you might think. Here's how to whip it up to perfection:
Roast the Vermicelli: Use a wok or kadai, not necessarily non-stick. But for beginners, that would help. Roast the vermicelli with ghee over low to medium heat until it turns golden brown. Set it aside.
Sauté the Aromatics: In the same pan, heat some ghee. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then, add chana dal, urad dal and cashews and sauté until they turn golden. Add curry leaves, ginger and green chillies and saute for a few seconds.
Add Mixed Veggies: Next, add the onions and the mixed veggies with a sprinkle of salt and saute on high until they begin to soften.
Season with Spices: Reduce the heat mix in the turmeric and red chilli powder and stir well to coat the veggies evenly.
Pour the water and bring it to a full boil over medium heat to cook the veggies. Taste and add more salt if required.
Stir in the roasted vermicelli, chopped coriander leaves and lime juice. Allow it to boil and cook on medium heat until it absorbs most of the water. Stir only a few times to bring the bottom to the top.
Reduce the flame to the lowest, cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Switch off and keep covered for another 5 to 8 minutes.
Open, fluff and serve semiya upma with ketchup coconut chutney or boiled eggs, or yoghurt-onion raita. I prefer the raita and eggs and F prefers ketchup or chutney and eggs.
Hint: I find using a rubber or silicon spatula makes it easier and neater to stir and turn the semi-cooked vermicelli.
- Large Kadai or Skillet: You'll need a wide, shallow pan or skillet to cook the vermicelli and vegetables. A non-stick pan works well.
- Stirring Utensil: A wooden spoon for sautéing the ingredients and a rubber spatula for stirring the upma while it cooks.
- Lid or Cover: A lid for the pan is essential to cover and simmer the upma, allowing it to cook evenly.
If you have leftover Semiya Upma or want to prepare it in advance, here's how you can store it: Transfer the leftover semiya upma to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. To reheat, you can use a microwave or stovetop. Microwave it in short intervals, stirring in between until it's heated through. On the stovetop, I prefer to steam the leftovers. You may add a little water to prevent it from drying out and heat it gently.
Remember to always check the quality of the stored upma before consuming. If it has an off smell or unusual texture, it's best to discard it.
When in doubt, it's a good idea to begin with less water than the standard for cooking vermicelli. You can gradually add more hot water if it starts to dry up before reaching the desired consistency. Remember, you can rescue an undercooked vermicelli in your upma, but there's no turning back from an overcooked one.
Vermicelli in Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu is called Semiya! How interesting is that! We make both sweet and savoury dishes with semiya, like payasam and semiya biryani.
A simple and popular South Indian breakfast item, Semiya upma is made with vermicelli cooked in tadka spices, nuts like cashews or peanuts. There are different types of vermicelli sold in the Indian markets. You will not only find the usual durum wheat vermicelli but some healthier options liks finger millet semiya, rice semiya, etc.
Make sure to roast the vermicelli well in the beginning with a drizzle of oil or ghee which can help prevent sticking. The key is to roast it until it's golden brown before cooking. Then, ensure the water-to-vermicelli ratio is right, and simmer it gently with a lid on until it's cooked through.
It pairs wonderfully with coconut chutney, onion raita, ketchup or even a simple pickle. Some enjoy it with a side of boiled eggs. hehe.
Yes, you can. Simply substitute ghee with vegetable oil, and make sure the vermicelli you use is vegan-friendly.
I understand as it can happen to anyone. Don't panic. I would crank up the heat and boil it open until most of the water is evaporated. Stir occasionally until it reaches the desired consistency. Then switch off and keep covered for the remaining time. This may help to salvage the semiya upma from being overcooked.
Looking for other recipes using vermicelli? Try these:
Though I grew up having my mom's semiya upma with lots of cashew nuts, I love the Keema semiya that my mom's friend used to make for Eid-ul-Adha breakfast. I hope to recreate and share the recipe. But for now, this vegetarian semiya upma will do which surprisingly F prefers to have than my popular Rava upma. 😏
Semiya Upma | Vermicelli Upma
- 1 kadai
- 1 rubber spatula (silicone)
- 1 ½ cup vermicelli roasted
- 1 tablespoon ghee divided
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons chana dal
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 1 sprig of curry leaves
- 8 whole cashews
- ½ inch ginger diced finely
- 3 green chillies chopped finely
- 1 medium-sized onion diced finely
- 1 cup mixed chopped veggies carrot, boiled or frozen peas, and/or beans
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- 2 ¼ cups water
- salt to taste
- Juice of half a lime
- Fresh coriander leaves chopped
- Heat a teaspoon of ghee in a large kadai and roast the vermicelli on a low to medium flame until lightly golden. Make sure to keep stirring so that they roast evenly. Transfer the roasted vermicelli onto a plate and put back the kadai on the stove.1 tablespoon ghee, 1 ½ cup vermicelli
- Add more ghee and splutter the mustard seeds, then add the chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves, cashews, ginger, and green chillies. Saute this until the lentils turn golden.1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons chana dal, 1 teaspoon urad dal, 1 sprig of curry leaves, 8 whole cashews, ½ inch ginger, 3 green chillies
- Add the onions and the mixed veggies with a dash of salt and saute on high until the onions turn translucent and the veggies are sweated.1 medium-sized onion, 1 cup mixed chopped veggies, salt to taste
- Reduce the heat and add turmeric and red chilli powder and saute for a minute or two.½ teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- Add all the water and bring this to a full boil on medium flame so that the veggies get cooked. Taste and add salt if required.2 ¼ cups water
- Gently, add in the roasted vermicelli little a time while stirring constantly. Stir in the coriander leaves and lime juice. This is the only time you can fix the salt.Juice of half a lime, Fresh coriander leaves
- Bring to a boil and cook on medium flame until most of the water is absorbed. Stir a few times to bring the bottom to the top.
- Reduce the flame to the lowest, cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Switch off and keep covered for 5 to 8 mins.
- Open, fluff and serve semiya upma with coconut chutney or boiled eggs, or yoghurt-onion raita