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A Handful of Mushrooms, Coconut Milk and Chicken – The Secret to a $100,000 Upma

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A staple vegetarian breakfast dish in the South of India, Upma which derives its origins from the words Uppu (salt) and Maavu (flour) is typically a dish for those who like to live simply. In the hands of celebrated New York Chef, Floyd Cardoz however, this simple dish is good enough to be presented on prime time American Television and impress the judges of the show.

That is what happened on Top Chef Masters, a Masterchef spin-off which won Indian-American chef Floyd Cardoz the grand prize of $100,000 which he ended up donating to the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund in memory of his father, who died of cancer. To make this dish, all Floyd did was to make a few changes to the original recipe so that it would appeal to the International Panel of Judges who would taste the dish. His three secret ingredients were Mushrooms, Coconut Milk and some chicken stock.

In continuation to our previous features on famous food recipes often cooked by celebrity chefs, here’s how you can cook this Upma which has risen to super stardom in the past few weeks.


  • 2 cups cream of wheat, 3 tablespoons canola oil, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons shallots
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon chillies, 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups coconut milk, Salt and pepper (to taste), Cilantro (as garnish)
  • Pea shoots (as garnish), Mushrooms, 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, 1/2 cup Maitake, 1/2 cup king oyster mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, 1 chilli pepper, 1 knob ginger
  • 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup white port, 1 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)


  1. Heat oil and cream of wheat and toast for 10 minutes on low heat. Now remove it from the pan
  2. Heat the oil mixture then add mustard seeds and whisk until the seeds pop. Add cumin and reserve
  3. Heat the pan. Add spice oil and butter. Now, add shallots, ginger, chillies, and cook for 2-4 minutes
  4. Add cream of wheat and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken stock and coconut milk. Mix, cook and let it Simmer
  6. Make sure the resulting Upma appears smooth.
  7. Garnish with Mushrooms and serve hot

Directions for Mushroom Garnishing

  1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add mushrooms and cook with lightly coloured sear
  2. Add butter, shallots, ginger and chilli
  3. Deglaze with white port
  4. Season with salt, pepper and cilantro.

While Upma is normally had as a breakfast dish, this variant can be had as a mainstream lunch or dinner dish as well. Let us know if you get around to cooking it, we’d love to publish a review of how it tastes and the experience of making it.