Note: To get fluffy, non-sticky semiya upma, the quantity of water used should be minimum - I have found that the proportion of 1:1 of vermicelli:water usually works, maybe slightly less water would result in an even drier upma, but this works for me.
Boil the water and keep aside; chop onions, green chilies, and roughly crush the curry leaves and keep aside
Heat oil a kadai/vanali/wide pan
When hot, add the mustard seeds, urad dal, hing and let the mustard splutter and the dal turn golden; add peanuts and saute for a couple of minutes to get the peanuts crisp
Add the onions, green chilies and 1/2 tsp of salt and fry till the onions start to turn translucent, but not brown
Add the vermicelli and fry everything together; this step is to ensure the vermicelli will not turn mushy when cooked in water; it's a little tricky to mix and cook everything as the noodles are tiny and fragile, but using a wide slotted spoon as in the picture (jalli karandi) works well
When the vermicelli starts to look fried, add the boiling water, salt, give it a good mix, and turn the heat down slightly and leave it alone for about 3-5 minutes
The vermicelli, being thin and broken, will cook quickly. If there is too much water, it will get mushy and soggy. This is one recipe where I would stick to the measurements.
At the end of 5 minutes, using the same spoon, give the dish a stir, and there should be no residual water, and the upma is done!
Serve with lemon/lime wedges if desired. It's perfect as it is though!
This recipe is my daughter's favorite. When growing up, I didn't have it with peanuts, but have started adding to give it a little protein boost.
You may add vegetables such as carrots, peas, beans. If so, cook them partially along with the onions, and add maybe a quarter cup of water extra for the veggies. I like mine with just the onions and the chilies and have not tried with vegetables.
I have also seen variations with ginger garlic paste, and the dish made almost like a biryani/pulao, but I like the simple vanilla version for this dish! Preroasted or not:
I never buy pre-roasted rava or semiya as I would like to control how much and what kind of oil I use, for one; for another, I'm never sure of the shelf life of something that's been cooked in oil. And, it hardly takes any extra time to roast it at home while making the upma fresh.