Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Warm Comforts - Savory Oats Upma

About a year ago, while I was still working at the University, a new student joined our group. After a long time, Having a fellow-Indian to talk to at work place meant that lunch-time conversations often meandered towards reminiscing about food in India. A month or so later, her husband went to visit his parents in Southern India, and when he returned, she came bearing some gifts for me. One of which were packets of the very popular, "Maggi" brand instant oats breakfast. Apparently, that product had recently been launched in India, and she really liked the convenience of it for breakfast. You essentially had to pour out the ingredients into a bowl, put in some water, zap it for a couple of minutes in the microwave and you had a warm bowl of Indian breakfast.

"I never eat Maggi"; I informed her, referring to the widely popular instant noodles available in India. "I hate the smell of it."

"This one isn't the same", she said. "This is made of oats and tastes like Upma. You do like Upma, don't you?" 

That is how I ended up with 3 packs of this Maggi Oats Upma product. 

The packs languished in my pantry for a few months. Then one night, I found myself alone, hungry and craving something warm without having to go through the pain of cooking or cleaning after. Rummaging through, I found these packs again. With no other alternative in sight, I decided to go for it. 5 minutes later, with a warm bowl in hand and a Hallmark movie on demand for company; I decided that I actually liked what I was eating. It was a tad too spicy for my taste, and still had that artificial flavor after-taste; but it was comforting and hearty.

When A returned the next week, I made the remaining two packs- one for him to try out, and the other for myself. "Not bad", he said. "Not as good as Maggi noodles, though!" That settled it- I decided he liked it!!

The next few visits to Indian store, I tried to find that product here in the US; and was pretty disappointed when I didn't. (I have recently seen them become available at the Indian grocery stores - if you are interested). 

"I should try making the savory version of Quaker breakfast oats - I really liked that upma! As the  inspiration behind my Indianized version of breakfast oats took root,  I played with and perfected my  recipe for Savory Oats Upma.

For 1 serving:
Flaked oats 1/4 cup (I used Quaker, traditional oats)
Onion  2-3 Tbsp chopped
Baby Red potato 1 chopped fine
Frozen peas ( I put in frozen peas and carrots, after microwaving for 1 min.)
Water 1/2 cup
Tomato juice 2 Tbsp
Salt and red chill powder to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
Oil 1tsp

  1. Heat oil in a pan and sauté the onions till translucent.
  2. Mix in the potato, frozen vegetables and spices. Cover and cook on medium-low till the potato is cooked through (about 5 min.)
  3. Stir in the oats. Sauté for 1-2 min.
  4. Pour in the water and tomato juice. Cook while stirring for another minute or till water is absorbed.
  5. Cover, set aside for a couple more minutes.
  6. Then fluff up and serve.

My two cents: I had never heard of oats in India, and didn't actually like the American breakfast version with milk and sugar either. It was too mushy for me. So I was surprised to discover that my taste buds loved this savory version of oats. 

A grain traditionally grown in temperate regions of Western Asia and Europe, oats do not contain gluten like wheat, and are a rich source of soluble fiber with almost no sugar or saturated fat. This makes oats extremely safe for celiac and diabetic diets that require maintenance of satiety and reduced fluxes in glycemic indices. Recent evidence suggests that while oats are not "carb-free", but the proteins associated with these carbs can actually increase metabolism and reduce "wheat belly". For me, it the quick-cooking, heart warming capability that decides the preference!!

That being said said, although instant oats cook faster, the processing results in loss of certain nutrients. 

But whatever your time constraints permit, I'd encourage you to try this Savory Oats Upma at least once!

You can find this post on Cooking for all Season's Come Join Us for Breakfast May 2015 Series