I've talked a lot about upma's here - wheat rava/dalia, beaten rice/atukulu, bambino and even maggi upma style have found a cozy spot. So here is yet another yummy tiffin item to add to that list, Sabudana/Sago Upma.
Upma's are mostly sought out when you need something quick, healthy and nutritious on the plate. I usually make them when I don't have any veggies at home, atleast not the quantity that can serve as a stand alone dish. The odd carrot, capsicum, beans, peas or a few handfuls of greens dutifully find their way into the upma. It helps perk up the upma, making it more satisfying and closer to a whole meal. Sabudana upma though, stands out from the group in a few aspects. This upma doesn't exactly fit into the 'fast-food' tag. It needs a few hours of prep time and so cannot be whipped up in the last minute like the rest. Its also not derived from a grain like the rest, but is actually made from the starch extracted from a root vegetable called cassava, read more about it here. The tapioca flour is also used as a egg substitutes in a few recipes due to its starch content.
The pearls can be used in making delicious payasams and puddings or in savory dishes like vada/cutlet and this upma. My mom also makes yummy sundried goodies called javvarsi vadiyalu with these. A couple of weeks a year would be dedicated to making an assortment of papads and vadiyam to last through the year. It was soo much fun! Cooked with ground green chillies, cumin seeds & salt, we spooned them out onto huge sheets of plastic during the summer months to dry. We would then have a scrumptious supply of treats for the rest of the year. I also love the ones stored in the stores, they are round and colored with food colors. We made a few of these at home using bottle lids to act as moulds for the round shape.
Sago upma is just as easy to make but with one tricky step, the soaking of the sago pearls. Its the difference between a good upma and a chewy, gummy, unpalatable mess! I've made that too, more than once! And its impossible to salvage the dish once that happens. It turns into such a gooey, gummy mess that you might loose your teeth trying to chew on it. It sticks to everything, infact it might make a good industrial glue base I think!
I've tried a few methods for soaking and finally found the one that works the best for me (touchwood :P). Wash and drain the sago pearls thoroughly, like you would rice, in 2-3 changes of water. Just as in the case of rice, washing wipes out a little of the starchy overcoat, which helps in keeping the grains fluffier & separated when cooked. Spread them out in a wide dish and sprinkle a few handfuls of water on top, so that they are barely moist but NOT swimming in water. Let it sit overnight. The next morning use your hand to break any clumps and you should have a pretty bunch of pure white pearls waiting to be made into a delicious upma. Be sure to buy a fresh stock of these by checking the packaging date. They do store well in the pantry but batches that are more than 8-10 months old will ruin the upma no matter how well you soak it.
anti-clockwise from top left - sabudana pearls left for soaking, after soaking overnight, added to the sauted onions.
I love peanuts, and...I love this upma :D This is one of my favorite weekend brunches, if I remember to soak the sabudana the previous night that is :) Its fun to eat this upma, the sago is slightly chewy and the peanuts crunchy, giving this dish a perfect balance of textures. Its a very simple dish with just two main components apart from the tadka/seasoning. Once you have the pre-soaked sabudana it hardly takes more than 15-20 mins to put the dish together. I bought some organic, roasted peanuts (unsalted) from the bulk bins of my local store and that shortened the prep time even more. If roasting them, make extra and store them for later use.Sabudana/Sago UpmaIngredients:
(2 medium servings)
- 1 cup - Sabudana, before soaking
- 1/4 cup - Peanuts
- 1/2 cup - Onions, diced
- 2 -3 nos - Green chillies, slit lengthwise
- 1/2 tsp - Mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp - Cumin seeds/Jeera
- 1 tsp - Channa dal
- a pinch of hing/asafoetida
- 1 Tbsp - Oil
- 4-5 - Curry leaves, chopped
- Salt to taste
- optional - 1 medium potato, diced and boiled in salted water
- Wash, drain and soak the sabudana as mentioned above. They will plump up a bit, run your hand through them and break any clumps.
- Heat oil in a skillet and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they begin to pop add the chana dal, as it starts to change color add green chillies, curry leaves and a pinch of hing.
- Add the onions next and saute till they turn translucent. In the meantime, dry roast the peanuts, cool and coarsely grind them. A few pulses in the blender will do, the coarse bits add the needed crunch to the upma while the finer ones soak up the moisture and keep the upma dry. (If using cubed potatoes, add them now and saute for a couple of minutes)
- Add the sago pearls and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the peanut powder & salt, stir carefully and cook for a few more minutes. The pearls are initially white and opaque, but turn slightly translucent as they cook. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and allow it to rest for 5 mins. Serve with a dollop of yogurt on the side.