We had a dinner party last night and I wanted to balance a lot of dals with one or two lighter starch dishes. Since it was also the first time we had met some of the guests, I wanted to have something mild, in case any of their sensitive Montana palates couldn't handle some of my more adventurous interpretations of Indian food (and then I'd never invite them back again). So I settled on this noodle dish. Vermicelli upma comes from southern India, where it's a common breakfast dish. But it's great any time of day, especially because it is quick and easy to whip up. And it's so good that everybody got upma grill asking for the recipe. So here it is!
Since I made this dish intentionally a little mild, you can dial up the garam masala or adapt the other seasoning and hot pepper content if you want a bigger flavor.
Prep time: 1/2 cocktail
4 TBSP oil or ghee, divided
8 ounces dried vermicelli noodles, broken or cut into quarter-length sections
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
8-12 fresh curry leaves
1-2 serrano chilies, diced
1-2 handfuls of chopped veggies (cabbage, peas, red bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
Heat the half of the ghee or oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. When oil shimmers, add dried noodles. Stirring very frequently, saute the noodles until they become toasted and brown, but not burned. Once noodles are fully toasted pour water over them (be careful, as this will splatter), stir in tumeric, and bring to a boil. Cook until the noodles are al dente, then drain and give a quick rinse of cold water while still in the colander.
As the noodles are cooking, heat the remaining oil or ghee in a large saucepan on medium. Once hot, add the mustard seeds. Cook the seeds in the oil until they begin to pop, then add the garam masala. Stir constantly for 10-15 seconds, then add the curry leaves (be careful, this will also splatter!) and cook for 5-10 more seconds then add all the veggies and a TBSP of water. Stir well, reduce to medium-low, and cover, opening this to stir the veggies every minute or two. Add another TBSP of water if the veggies and spices start to stick.
Once veggies are tender but not mushy, stir in the pasts (you might have to use the Dutch oven you cooked the noodles in, if the saucepan is too small for everything). Stir in lemon juice and salt. Cook for a couple minutes until everything is well heated and mixed together. Adjust lemon and salt to desired taste, stir in cashews, and serve immediately.