My Aunt Marie sent me my Uncle Anton’s (her brother) version of a staple South Indian breakfast dish. She said in her note that this was a favourite breakfast of my father and his brothers when they were young kids in Kandy. Curiously I don’t recall ever having this for breakfast in our household either in Sri Lanka or when dad took over the cooking in Australia. You can have it for breakfast on its own or with a wet curry – fish would go well – or as a substitute for rice at lunch or dinner.

Anton van Reyk's Uppuma

My uncle's version of a South Indian breakfast dish that he and his brothers loved.
Course Breakfast
Keyword rave, semolina, upma, uppuma
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 1 cup semolina flour (rava)
  • 1 shallot onion use a brown onion if you can't find shallots
  • 1 green chili use a red chili if you can't find a green one
  • 1 piece ginger - about 2 cms
  • 1 tsp yellow dhal (channa - dried split yellow peas)
  • 1 tsp black dhal (urud - white inner and black skin dried split peas)
  • 1 tsp mustard seed (the purple kind not brown)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (kept whole)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • salt


  • Put 2 cups of water to boil in an electric jug/kettle or on the stove.
  • Slice the shallot or other onion very thin.
  • Slice the green chili very thin (you can remove the seeds if you like to take some of the 'heat' out of the dish).
  • Slice the ginger into thin strips (see picture).
  • Strip the leaflets from the sprig of curry leaf.
  • Dry roast the cup of semolina. To do this put the frypan on the stove and when hot add the semolina. Don't have any oil in the frypan. Keep stirring the semolina with a wooden or other cooking spoon so it doesn't burn. You want it to just turn colour from white to dark cream. You will be able to smell the difference between the raw semolina and the semolina as it roasts. If in doubt, roast in the pan for 5 minutes, stirring all the time, then take the frypan off the heat and keep stirring the semolina as it continues to cook with just the heat of the frypan.
  • Tip the semolina out of the frypan and put it to one side.
  • Put the 2 tbsp of oil into the frying pan and put the pan back on the fire. Let the oil heat up - say 2 or 3 minutes at most.
  • Add the yellow and black dhals, the mustard seed and the cumin seed to the frying pan and sauté for a minute or two stirring gently all the time.
  • Add the onions, ginger, and curry leaves to the frying pan and sauté, stirring, till the onion softens. Be careful - curry leaves can spit so stand back when you toss them in.
  • If the water has boiled add it to the semolina a little at a time. If it hasn't boiled take the frying pan off the stove till the water has boiled, then put it back on the stove and add the water a little at a time. You are doing this, as you do with a risotto, to control how wet your semolina mix - the uppuma - gets. You want it to lift off the base and sides of the pan in a thickish lump but not be solid, and you definitely don't want it to be sloppy. You want it thicker than porridge, though. If you have ever cooked polenta or eaten a slice of cooked polenta, that's the consistency you are looking for. See the picture.
  • Add a little salt as you are stirring the semolina. When you have it at the right consistency, check the taste and add more salt if you like.
  • If you semolina is still too dry when you have used all the boiling water, add a little more and keep working it till you have a nice consistency.