Semolina is a coarse flour made from durum wheat, a hard type of wheat.
Upma is typically made by first lightly dry roasting semolina (called rava or sooji in India). The semolina is then taken off the fire, and kept aside while spices, lentils, onion, ginger, etc are sautéed in oil or ghee. The semolina is then added back to the pan and mixed thoroughly. Boiling water is added, and the mixture is stirred until the semolina absorbs the liquid and becomes fluffy in texture.
There are several ways in which upma is made, and the variations are obtained by either adding or removing spices and vegetables. The texture can vary significantly as well, depending on how much water is added to it, and how long the mixture is allowed to remain on the flame thereafter.
Upma made from sooji
The most popular version with wide variations of upma are made with whole or refined ground semolina made out of durum wheat. Sometimes a wide range of vegetables may be added, and may be garnished with a variety of beans (raw or sprouted), cashew and peanuts. For a variation called masala upma (known as kharabath in Karnataka), sambar masala or garam masala is added along with red chilli powder, instead of green chillies. This variety is more popular in Karnataka, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh and is usually served in South Indian restaurants. Uppumavu paired with hand mashed banana is a common breakfast item in Kerala homes.
When ground into a flour, durum wheat is known as semolina and used all over the world in bread, pasta, and porridge. This flour is darker and more golden in color than all-purpose flour. It has a mild, earthy aroma.