Lemon Semiya| Lemon Vermicelli Upma

Vermicelli upma, for our family, has always meant upma with onions and green chillies, sometimes with green peas added in too. That is how vermicelli aka semiya upma has always been made in our families. In spite of the flexibility of the vermicelli – in spite of its ability to go with a whole lot of seasonings and ingredients – somehow, we never got around to experimenting with it until very recently. 

Some time in the last month, I tried out making vermicelli upma in a different way – with lemon. It turned out brilliant, so lovely that I have made it many times over since. For the sake of records, this lemon semiya upma was breakfast this Valentine’s Day, because it is one home-made breakfast that the husband loves a whole lot. 

This upma tastes delicious, and is super easy to make. It makes for a refreshing change from other routine breakfasts like rava upma, idlis and dosas

Now, without further ado, let me get around to telling you how exactly I make the lemon semiya upma

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 1-1/2 cups roasted vermicelli (I use Bambino) 
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 1/4 cup groundnuts
  4. 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. A pinch of asafoetida 
  7. 1-1/2 tablespoons oil
  8. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  9. A few curry leaves
  10. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped 
  11. A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  12. Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste


1. Take about 3 cups of water in a pan, and add a little salt to it. On high heat, let the water come to a boil. 

2. Add the roasted vermicelli to the boiling water, and turn the flame down to medium. Mix well once. 

3. Let the vermicelli cook till it is almost done, but not too mushy. You need to keep stirring the vermicelli every now and then, and keep checking its done-ness. Switch off the gas when the vermicelli is almost done and pour the contents of the pan into a colander. 

4. Immediately run cold water over the vermicelli in the colander, to stop the cooking process. Set the colander in the sink and let all the water drain out. Allow the vermicelli to cool down fully before you begin making the upma

5. Meanwhile, dry roast the groundnuts in a pan on medium flame, till they turn crisp. Ensure that they do not burn. Remove the roasted groundnuts onto a plate. Keep aside. 

6. Heat the oil in the same pan and add the mustard. Allow to splutter. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds. 

7. Turn down the flame to medium, and add the chopped ginger and roasted peanuts. Let them stay in for a few seconds. 

8. Now, add the cooked vermicelli, turmeric powder, salt to taste, curry leaves, and slit green chillies. Mix well. 

9. On low-medium flame, let the upma cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir intermittently, ensuring that the upma doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 

10. Switch off the gas. Stir in the finely chopped coriander and lemon juice. Mix well. 

11. Serve hot. 


1. If you want to up the spice level, add more green chillies to the upma or some red chilli powder along with the green chillies. 

2. Ensure that you stop cooking the vermicelli in the boiling water when it is almost done. Do not let the vermicelli cook overly, otherwise the upma will turn out to be mushy and tasteless. This is the most important step in the entire process, and if you get this right, chances are that your upma will turn out perfect. 

You like? I hope you will try this out too, and that you will love it! 

Bubboo Snippets

The little one loves being ‘Doctor Aunty’ these days. She does everything that a doctor does, and calls herself ‘Datuk Aunty’.

Datuk Aunty comes rushing at us with a malicious grin on her face, and gives us big injections with her forefinger, just about everywhere on our bodies.

The husband and I have been on the receiving end of some rather painful injections lately, I must say. 😐


“Did you buy the moong dal?,” I ask the husband.
Moong dal,” a little voice echoes in the background.

I walk to the kitchen to make us a cup of tea each.
Amma.. kitchen.. walking,” says the little voice.

The husband puts out the coupons for the milk delivery man every night.
The little voice, observant as ever, says, “Appa, milk, coupon”.

Every little thing we do in the house is observed, commented upon, including our visits to the loo and the flushing of the toilet. More than half of what we speak to each other gets repeated, in bits and pieces.

Little boss is watching, ALL the time.

The husband calls the little one ‘The Echo’. I think the name is quite apt.


Amma, daddy paavam. Daddyku mammam? (Ma, poor daddy! Where is daddy’s food?”)

“Daddy office. Daddyku roti kudu! (Daddy is working. Give him rotis!)”

“Daddy, idli for you!”

“Daddyku dosa venum! (Daddy wants dosas!)”

Ayyo, this Daddy fan club at our home! 🙂


Fattabye = butterfly
Jippachi = giraffe
Aapis = office
Nakshitu = nasingithu (pressed)
Toto = dog
Bau = milk
Tumba = tumbler
Okkachi = okkaru (sit)
Asish = ostrich
Kapucheep = kerchief
Thankoo = thank you
Tattayee = tata, bye
Pepe = paper

Kiddie speak in our house, if you are wondering what this is. Just for the sake of records. 🙂



If We Were Having Coffee…

… I’d tell you that Bubboo is better now, touchwood. She seems to have undergone a transformation as far as her favourite tastes are concerned – that is probably what the hunger strike she went on a while back was all about. I read somewhere that a lot of kids go through a phase like this at 21-22 months of age, where they just refuse to eat anything. It is a time when they are evolving rapidly as a person, and their tastebuds are too. At this stage, they begin to question the stuff they have been eating all this while, refusing food point blank, putting the parents in a very scary situation. Phew! I’m glad I’m out of those worries now.

… I’d tell you that, thanks to some sage advice I received from my paed and fellow moms, I think I dealt with the hunger strike well. After a point, I stopped making so much of an effort to feed Bubboo. I let her get hungry, and then come to food, instead of taking food to her. I let her pick and choose the foods that she wanted to eat. I gave her a change of scene by taking her to my in-laws’ place for a short stay. Slowly and gradually, her taste buds started working, and she began eating normally. She asks for different kinds of foods now – from vadams to khakras to sweet dishes, strange considering the way she wouldn’t even touch sweets earlier. Anyways, I am not complaining!

…. I’d tell you about how, of late, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the huge amount of chemicals and unwanted substances we are introducing into our stomachs and using on our skins. Soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, diapers, sanitary pads, packaged foods, talcum powder, hair oil, and even raw grains and vegetables that we buy – everything is laced with chemicals to some extent or the other. I’m glad we took the plunge and started using hand-made chemical-free soaps a year ago. I want to, slowly and gradually, switch over to entirely bio-degradable, natural and chemical-free stuff all around our house. I am researching, reading up on that, making enquiries, experimenting, and trying to figure out what will work for us and what not. In entirety, this change will take us a long, long, long while, but I do hope that we will get there, some day.

… I’d tell you of how the OH is facing a whole lot of politics, ill attitude, and stress at the workplace. It is frustrating to see him put up with all of it so that he can give his wife and kid a good life. It is worrying to see him so very tired at the end of each work day, more mentally drained than physically. It is mentally tiring for me to stand by and watch all of it happen, while I am unable to chip in and do anything for him, except make his time at home more comfortable. Sigh!

… I’d tell you about the lovely experiences we have had of late. First Dastkar, then the trip to Goravanahalli and the visit to the village santhe at Udigere, then the visit to the Bangla Mela. Each of these experiences has changed me, made me more aware, made me think a whole lot, knocked at my conscience and asked me to make some changes in the way we live our life.

… I’d tell you just how much I am craving for a vacation. It has been ages since the OH and I went on a trip that wasn’t undertaken with a religious purpose or to a family member’s home. I want to travel like we would before, seeking out experiences, relaxing, feeling the stresses of everyday life lose their grip upon our minds and bodies. I don’t know how well Bubboo would take such a trip, but this is definitely something we want to try out.

… I’d tell you of how Bubboo is getting naughtier by the day. I just can’t fathom how she gets up to 20 different kinds of mischief in the span of a few minutes. This morning, she put her hands into the commode, opened the tap in the bathroom, threw about half a bucket of water all over herself, insisted on drinking dirty water from the dishes stacked up in the kitchen sink, asked me to carry her around for close to an hour so that she could touch each and every plant in our balcony garden, climbed up on my computer table, threw all of the OH’s visiting cards on the floor, and what not. All of this after I got back from my morning walk. Any wonder I get exhausted before noon? 😐 And while she is at the in-laws’, she is such a goodie-good girl that no one can believe she can ever get up to any mischief! These kids, I tell you!

… I’d tell you of how I try to cook something new at least once every week, in spite of all the sleep deprivation, tiredness and stress that I am undergoing now. I think it is only now that I am coming into my own, as far as my passion for cooking goes. My family doesn’t understand why I need to burden myself with one more thing – i.e. cooking – when we already have a cook, but I insist. A lot of people ask me how I muster up the enthusiasm to cook when I already have so much going on in life. I tell them the same thing I told Pepper, in a comment on one of my recent posts, “Well, I muster up the enthu because the cooking helps keep my stress levels at bay. It keeps me sane by giving me something to do, for myself. In between dealing with the kid, keeping house, trying to lose weight, dealing with a husband who has a very stressful job, being stuck at home without any kind of social life, having to depend on the husband for commuting anywhere, the worries about not having an income flow, cooking and writing about it are wonderful therapy. It gives me immeasurable relief to know that I can cook to save my life (and, maybe, make a living out of it too). Moreover, experimenting with different kinds of ingredients is a passion – it gives me pleasure to see something edible (or delicious) come out of it.:)

… I’d tell you about how we now have a bunch of ideas on how we want to celebrate Bubboo’s second birthday. We are mulling on a few things, and I’m hoping to have a small but beautiful celebration. 🙂

… I’d tell you of how glad I am to be on Facebook, in spite of all the angst that social media receives these days. Too much of anything is bad, I agree, Facebooking included. I Facebook (that is, pretty much, the only kind of social media that I use regularly, apart from this blog) in moderation, I think. I love being a part of the Facebook groups that I am part of – they offer me food for thought, force me to take well thought-out decisions, and are there to offer suggestions and advice whenever I feel lost. I love writing about my discoveries, foodie and otherwise, on Facebook, and getting advice on them by people with different types of ideologies – it goes a long, long way in broadening my horizons. The people I come into contact with through these Facebook groups are so very inspiring, in a whole lot of ways. I don’t think I am addicted to Facebooking, and I love what I am doing with it. The time I spend there is totally justified, I feel.

… I’d tell you about the huge amount of growth I see in Bubboo over the last couple of months. It feels as if she suddenly grew into this big girl from a little one overnight. She is a full-on chatterbox, chattering away about this and that. I am amazed at the sheer number of new words and phrases she learns every day, from all and sundry, from times when we think she’s not even listening. She surprises us with her understanding at times, confounds us with her tantrums at others. She is at a highly impressionable age now, and we are very careful about what we do and talk in front of her. I don’t think it will be long before she starts asking questions about the world around her. We’d better be prepared!

… I’d tell you about the lot of life projects that I am currently working on, with Bubboo. For instance, I’m trying to potty train, trying to get her more comfortable out of doors, trying to get her to love physical play outdoors. These things keep me occupied, but satisfied. Wish me luck with these projects, will you, please?

… I’d also ask about you and your loved ones, about what’s up with you.


For Weekend Coffee Share, an interesting meme here. Do check it out!



Of A Little Boy And His Ganesha

So, we just got back from a sort of break at the in-laws’ place. We left home thinking we would stay for a couple of days – the OH, Bubboo and I – and ended up staying for 10 days. We didn’t even take extra clothes with us, because we had no intention of staying over. But stay over we did, and we did have fun too.

We ended up doing a whole lot of stuff out there, pigged out on a lot of lovely food, explored a lot, relaxed and walked and spent time with everyone in the extended family, read a bit, came up with a whole lot of ideas to write about, shopped, and what not. Bubboo was thoroughly entertained by everyone, and she entertained everyone with her antics as well. This is the first time I have stayed at my in-laws’ place for so long after we moved out and into our own house, in 2009. We must have stayed with my in-laws for a sum total of 4 months before we moved out. So, you can imagine how fraught with emotions my time there now was.

I came across so many relics there, from when the OH was a little boy, and they brought a lump to my throat. They reminded me that this mature, cool, composed person who is my husband was also a little boy, once upon a time.

This Ganesha idol, for instance.


This colourful idol came home once when the OH and his brothers and sister were kids, for Ganesh Chaturthi. The little-boy husband religiously decked up the idol with flowers every day and offered sweets to the Ganesha. When the time came for the Ganesha to be immersed in a lake, the little OH sobbed incessantly, hugged his mom’s feet and begged for the idol not to be taken away from him. My mother-in-law was told by her mother-in-law that tradition (the taking away of the Ganesha idol to be immersed in a lake) was no reason to make the children in the house unhappy, and so the family decided to let go of tradition. The Ganesha stay put in the pooja room of my in-laws’ house, and that is where it stays till date. Every year, on Ganesh Chaturthi thereafter, it is this Ganesha that is prayed to and offered sweets. Thanks to my mother-in-law’s meticulous housekeeping, the Ganesha is still in lovely shape, apart from peeling paint at one or two places.

Sweet, right?

These little anecdotes from the real life of real people – this is just what I love hearing. They tell me more about people than they tell me, through their words.

I will be back with more such stories shortly. Till then, you guys be good!

Balcony Tales

Balconies have always been important to me. I love balconies. I think they are windows to the world outside, from where you can look out, all the while sitting in the safe comfort of your own home. They are sanctuaries, where you can grab a few moments of peace over a cup of tea or a plate of bajjis. They are in-between, neither inside the house nor outside, a place where you can escape to when the chaos inside the house gets too much for you, and you don’t really want to get out of the house. They make the house outward-looking, I think. Without a balcony, a house would be isolated from the rest of the world, cut off, very inward-looking – of course, my own two cents only, meaning no offense to anyone else. For this very reason, I do not like balconies with grills – they make a house safe, yes, but they also close out a lot of light and action and air and love and make the house, well, suffocating.

I especially love balconies that do not face dead, overgrown plots of vacant land or the back of someone else’s house. I like my balconies to look out onto a road, possibly, where there is a little action – just enough action, mind you, not too much. My ideal balcony is one where there are plants (flowers and a small patch of herbs and some vegetables), a swing and a little nook where I can sit and think and create.

Considering my love of balconies (thankfully, the OH shares a bit of this love), a road-facing balcony was one thing we always look out for while we are looking for an apartment to live. We had three balconies (three! yes, a rarity these days) in the place we used to stay in earlier, and a long road-facing one in the place we shifted to last year. It took us quite some time to set up the balcony garden in the house we presently live in, but now, I can safely say we are almost 70% done. The garden still needs a lot of work to bring it to the shape I want to bring it to, but at least there is some semblance of a garden now, there is a sanctuary in the house for me to go to, there is a little place that fills my heart with joy.

I am happy to say Bubboo seems to love the balcony as much as I do. It is the first place she heads to, as soon as she wakes up in the mornings. It is where she sits and watches the older boys and girls in our apartment play in the evenings. It is where I sit and talk to her about the different kinds of things that we see around us – from dogs and cats to vegetable vendors and trees and flowers. It is where Bubboo sits and watches the rain. She often eats sitting out on the balcony. I sometimes read to her there. We like basking in the sun on the balcony, on days when it is not too hot. We like watching as our neighbours wave to us in the balcony, and waving back to them. We like watching as butterflies and squirrels run in and out of our plants, searching for food. I could just go on and on and on!

Balconies have always, always been a place of solace for me. Our balconies have seen a lot of action. They hold a whole lot of fond memories for us. They have been a place of sharing our own kind of love, of bonding with each other. They have been places of sustenance for us, providing us with some home-grown ingredients for our food.

This new place is slowly, very slowly, beginning to feel like home. We are apart from the rest of the OH’s family now, very far away, but we are slowly finding friends here, bonding, building up relationships. I hope, with all my heart, that we soon forge friendships and relationships of note here, and that our balcony here goes on to witness a whole lot of special, little memories.




The husband is away on work, and the little one seems to be missing cuddling up to him. So, the last time he called me, I broke my no-phone-for-kid rule. I told the pint-sized one her dad was on the line and put the phone to her ear. She smiled as soon as she heard his voice, then grabbed the phone from my hand, and began turning it from side to side, looking at it intently. It dawned on me that she was trying to find her dad inside the phone!

I am immensely touched and heart-broken, both at the same time.

The Girl Who Eats The Moon

“Dearie, look up there at the sky! See, there is the moon!”

“Moon! Moon! Moon!”

“Shall we eat the moon?”

The little girl opens her mouth wide, and her father proceeds to grab the moon from the sky and put it into her mouth.

“Gulp it down quickly!”


“Yesterday, after you ate the moon, it got so dark outside. There were people looking for the moon, you know? Two of them came to our house and asked if we had seen the moon. I told them I knew nothing about it.”

*Big smile*

“Now, go to bed. If you go out, you’ll glow. People will think you are the moon.”

*Bigger grin*

This happens almost every day at our place, with almost the same reactions from Bubboo and almost the same dialogues by her father. It is the cutest thing I ever saw. 

Andha nilava thaan naan kai la pudichen, en rasaathi kaga is just about perfect for this father-daughter duo, me thinks!


Of Eating Turkish Kestane In Bangalore

Little carts with striped awnings are quite a common sight on the streets of Istanbul, the OH tells me. These carts largely sell boiled corn and smoked water chestnuts, the latter known locally as ‘Kestane’. I am guessing this is a winter thing, and that the corn and water chestnuts will soon be replaced by some other delicacies as summer sets in.

A cart selling Kestane and boiled corn outside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul. Photo Courtesy: The OH

The OH knew that I would have wanted to try out the Kestane, had I been with him. He was quick to grab a bag of raw chestnuts from a nearby departmental store, to carry back home with him, in spite of being subjected to ridicule by his colleagues, he tells me. Just hearing that made my day, for obvious reasons. 🙂

One of the perks of having a husband who travels a lot on work is that you get to see the places you might never have thought about earlier, through his eyes. That, and the fact that you get souvenirs of all kinds, from all of these places, water chestnuts included.

For my benefit, the OH went on to take a few close-up shots of the cart, again only to be subjected to ridicule by his colleagues, so that I could know exactly how the chestnuts were cooked – on a charcoal fire. Apparently, there are no trash cans around and the peels left over after the smoked chestnuts have been eaten are added to the hot coals in the grate. They then create energy to cook more chestnuts.

A close-up of the smoked water chestnuts and the charcoal fire on which they are cooked. Photo Courtesy: The OH

The water chestnuts that the OH got home gave us the perfect opportunity to fire up the Rajasthani charcoal stove that we had picked up ages ago at a fair in Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore, but never used. We set up the stove in our balcony, kindled the fire, smoked the chestnuts, and went on to hog them. They tasted delicious – sweet and smoky and very different in taste from the singoda aka singhada aka Indian water chestnut. Thanks to the Internet, I now understand that the singoda and this water chestnut come from different plants, and are not the same. This is the water chestnut that is used in the preparation of several Chinese dishes, and not singoda.

Our charcoal stove being fired in the balcony yesterday

It was a beautiful experience to shell these chestnuts and eat the sweet kernels, enjoying the warmth of them in our hands just when the evening had started to get chilly. I can see why they are a favourite snack out of India on winter evenings – as I have read in quite a few books. I just love it when books and real life intersect like that!

I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to sit with the OH on a bench overlooking the busy Turkish street where he bought the water chestnuts from, eating them out of a paper cone. Some day…

From Turkey, With Love

My love affair with Turkey – Istanbul in particular – started quite a few years back, when I was working with a huge corporate, and I learnt that my colleagues from the Marketing team were headed to Istanbul as an incentive for achieving their sales targets. I was jealous, but more than that, I was intrigued by the place. It was then that I consciously began reading articles and blog posts and tidbits relating to Turkey – I didn’t do any research per se on the place, but listened with open ears whenever anyone had something to say about it. I attended Ruhaniyat a couple of years back just so I could see the whirling dervishes of Turkey in action. I read The Forty Rules Of Love just because the author was Turkish, and though I didn’t like the book much, it did get me intrigued by Turkey all over again. I saw loads of pictures of Istanbul, and knew that this was one of the many places I would definitely want to visit at least once in my life time. This post was written on a whim, inspired by my dream to visit Istanbul. So, I was more than a tad surprised when the OH announced, about a month back, that was expected to head to Istanbul for a work trip, soon. That is the trip I was talking about here.

Much as both of us would have liked it, there were several factors that prevented me and Bubboo from travelling along with him. Before he travelled, though, I made sure I downloaded all that I knew about Turkey onto him. 🙂 He was utterly surprised to know that I knew a whole host of things about the place – from where one can go for a hot-air balloon ride to what souvenirs one can pick up there. I think it was then that he really understood how big a dream of mine it was to visit the place. “Next time, we’ll go to Turkey together,” I told the OH, “For now, you go. Experience the place for me. When you are back, tell me every single thing you did there in minute detail, so that I can see and feel the place through you.” And that is just what he did. The OH is now back from his trip, with loads of photos, experiences, memories, gifts, and things to tell me. Now, Istanbul doesn’t sound like all that distant a place. The OH’s visit there has made me crave even more to plan a trip there, and soon!

Now, I have bits and pieces of Istanbul in my home – hand-made soaps and perfume and evil eye souvenirs, and what not.

I have a box of baklava and one of Turkish delight sitting in my kitchen, waiting to be my post-lunch sweet treat.

Turkish delight in various flavours
Baklava in various forms

Sultan Spice and Turkish Biryani Masala from Istanbul’s Spice Market occupy pride of place in my spice rack now. A packet of Turkish coffee waits to go into my coffee filter, for tomorrow morning. Chocolates, walnuts, dates, and hazelnuts travelled all the way from Turkey to my home, too, and I am still figuring out what to do with them. I have a bag of water chestnuts off the streets of Istanbul, waiting to be roasted and devoured in the afternoon.

Most of the souvenirs that the OH has picked up for me are of the foodie type, yes. He knows his wife a tad too well!

The foodie in me is very happy at the moment, content. The traveller in me is yearning, and wants a release for all the pent-up wanderlust in her.

For now, I eat and dream away….