The trend of marrying a longstanding, intrinsically desi dish with a modern, global culinary style is clearly here to stay. And, in this ever-evolving realm of fusion cuisine, the most unlikely subject for gastronomic experimentation has definitely been the humble upma.
Few things manage to evoke instant homesickness such as digging into a scrumptious Indian breakfast – for some of us, particularly a bowl of hot, toasty upma that smells delectably of ghee and a roasted red chilli. But it seems, this traditional rendition of the thick, dry, savoury South India-origin porridge is now passé, if these new, innovative spins on the dish are anything to go by.
At Santè Spa Cuisine, for instance, where you can delve into some organic, vegetarian food amidst greenery and calm, you get a wonderfully healthy take on upma. Here, rice flour is replaced with gluten-free quinoa, whose mildly nutty undertones bring an interesting flavoured dimension to the dish. There is also a clear textural difference – the quinoa upma is more granular in consistency, and some chopped broccoli adds a lovely, nutrition-packed crunch to it. Spiked with mustard and chilli, it comes served with salad and delicious pesto chutney.
Over at Terttulia, you can nibble on some fluffy couscous upma charmingly served in the shape of a ramekin. Couscous being finely ground semolina, the taste is close to that of the original version, but the mouth-feel is unusually coarser. While the good old variety is usually garnished with some toasted cashew nuts and a light smattering of crisp sev; here, you have dried fruits, curry leaves, nuts and pomegranate seeds mingling with the couscous crumbs, with strands of berry compote on the side providing a fruity punch to the preparation.
The Chaai pulls off the most original reinterpretation of upma – by converting it into a pancake! So you have semolina mixed into a batter with curd and spices and cooked like an uttapam. The result is an ‘upma pancake’ that is lusciously crispy at the surface, especially the edges, and soft and melt-in-the-mouth inside. Served alongside a couple of equally lip-smacking ‘poha cakes’, the pancake comes drizzled with a tangy tamarind salsa.
Lastly, Dravidas Bistro rustles upma prepared from stir-fried dalia (broken wheat) layered with vegetables (at the bottom of the cup as well as on top) and some grated coconut – wholesome and delicious to the very last spoonful.