The Treasured Rice Upma and Its Cousins

Time is 6 pm. All tasks done for the day. Time to shut the laptop down. Hunger pangs have already begun. Been a long hard day with lots of brain work. Must reward myself with a nice dinner. Hmmm. What to cook?
Aha! Rice upma in a vengala paanai. Hey you upma haters! You are missing something in life if you have not tasted this simple yet fulfilling dish. It’s wholesome as it has lentils too along with rice as well as a dash of spice. Just like a movie outing is more fun with the right company, the taste of rice upma accentuates with the right accompaniment. The common one in most houses in all districts is the coconut thuvaiyal. But in some houses in the Chengelpet district a raita accompaniment made with curd and crushed garlic or crushed onion garnished with mustard and red chillies is made. Some houses add a dash of turmeric to this pachadi too. Another popular accompaniment is Brinjal Gotsu in some houses, but not in mine. We prefer Gotsu for Pongal and Idly.
I learnt this accompaniment as well as the tamarind pachadi which goes very well for the rice upma from my mother in law. The tamarind pachadi is simple enough to make. The ground dhania, ‘kadala paruppu’ and red chillies with a dash of fenugreek makes it mouth watering. You can also add a hint of jaggery.
In some houses arisi upma is made using coconut oil but it tastes best I feel only when one uses gingelly oil. The bronze pot is my mother’s.
This doubles up as the Pongal Pot too. The clang of the ‘jalli karandi’ on the pot is a dead giveaway of what I am cooking not to mention the aroma which Iam sure tempts even the neighbours..and my daughter invariably exclaims…” arisi upma? Wow”

Vengala paanai

Pachadi for rice upma

Arisi upmas cousins are Usili, Arisi Sundal and Sojji.
Only a few families with origins in Chengelpet district actually know what Sojji is. No..not the Sojji Bajji (Kesari) which people make when prospective grooms come a visiting.
This Sojji is made out of broken rice. The rice is washed, dried in shade and broken. Then it is roasted and stored. It’s easy on the stomach and a watery version of this is made for people recovering from illness.
Add green gram dal to this Sojji then it becomes Usili. Arisi sundal is also a cousin of Ven Pongal. It’s also called Muzhu Arisi upma.

There will be mini fights in many houses to get a portion of the roasted upma (Kaandhal) which is possible only when using a vengala paanai.

Arisi Upma

Never belittle this upma friends. It’s like Lord Krishna…Abath pandava.
Sudden guests…no idly batter. It’s upma.
In a hurry…to watch your favorite serial…it’s upma for dinner.
Too tired to stand and make dosai for the entire family, then out comes the vengala paanai.

And if you want something traditional yet like eye candy on the dinner table this rice upma can transform itself into upma kozhukattai!

There are several kinds of upma but upma connoisseurs will agree with me that the most versatile and tastiest of them all is of course the rice upma.

Do share the food traditions of your home in the comments. Thanks for reading this upma kadhai!

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