grilled lobster, tomato coconut sauce upma

Chef Vineet Bhatia's Seafood Upma

The Indian chef and restaurateur shares a simple, signature breakfast dish, uniquely using seafood.

Chef Vineet Bhatia adds flowers from his garden to lobster upma on YouTube Live.

Chef Vineet is known as the first Indian chef to earn a Michelin star at Zaika in London’s Chelsea neighborhood in 2001. He has 11 restaurants around the world, from Switzerland to Saudi Arabia, including his flagship in Harrod's, Kama by Vineet. Chef Vineet's been a judge on Netflix's "The Final Table" and "Master Chef India," and he authored "My Sweet Kitchen & Rasoi." For ICE's first virtual Elite Chef demonstration, he shared the following signature dish on YouTube Live.

Seafood is not something that instantly springs into one's mind when the conversation is about Indian cuisine. In fact, I often find that the seafood is overcooked or lost in a stodgy, heavy masal spiced stew as far as Indian cooking is concerned. I have a great affinity towards seafood and love cooking this given the first opportunity.

This is not a "classical," "traditional" or "authentic" recipe or dish as often the claim is when writing about an Indian recipe. I would best describe it as reminiscence of those flavors that I still can vividly taste in my mental palate, that I enjoyed as an 11- or 12-year-old on a rare summer holiday in the coastal back waters of Kerala.

This dish was created way back in mid 1999, the early days of Zaika Restaurant London, the first Indian restaurant to get awarded the Michelin star in 2001. It is actually quite a simple dish and the flavors are clear and not complex. It certainly made for squeals of pleasantries when the dish was put on the guests' table. And for me, broke the boundaries that Indian food was boxed in!

Here was a dish that was plated, certainly wasn’t available in any of the other "Indian restaurants" around London or any other part of the world, and a far cry from what was available in the local curry houses. The flavors were all very Indian, yet visually it looked anything but Indian.

The sauce is a spin of the moilee from the South of India (Malabar Region) and is a coconut-flavored creamy sauce, lightly tempered with black mustard seeds and curry leaves. Until then, it certainly wasn’t being served in many Indian restaurants that tended to focus their menus on the widely marketed North Indian preparations of butter chicken, tadka dal and samosas.

Upma is again a breakfast dish that also originates from the South of India where it is enjoyed for breakfast or a tea time snack.

I have brought these two dishes together on the plate, along with some lightly pan-grilled lobster, and I think the flavors come together beautifully and take me back to that summer holiday watching the fishermen cast their nets on this beach in Kochi!

Vineet Bhatia's signature

Food allows us to travel thus!





Grilled Lobster/Seabass, Tomato Coconut Sauce, Upma


  • 2 lobster tails, cut into half or 2 fillets of seabass (approximately 140 grams each), scaled, pinboned
  • 2 whole dried chillies
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Oil to pan grill
  • Salt

For the coconut sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 120 milliliters tomato passata
  • 120 milliliters thick coconut milk
  • Salt

For the upma:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 60 grams semolina
  • 200 milliliters boiling water
  • Salt

For the garnish:

  • Deep-fried rice noodles
  • Edible flowers


If using lobster:

  1. Soak the whole red chillies in warm water. Coarsely blend with cloves to get the red chilli and garlic paste. Sprinkle of salt to season.
  2. Marinate the lobster with the red chilli garlic paste and pan grill.

If using seabass:

  1. Trim the fish fillets and make gashes on the skin.
  2. Cook the seabass fillet, skin side down on medium heat in a non stick pan with very little oil.
  3. Once the skin crisps, flip the fillets and cook the other side, season each fillet with salt as it cooks on each side.

For the coconut sauce:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. As they begin to pop, add the garlic and ginger, sauté till translucent. Add the tomato passata and red chilli powder and bring the sauce to a boil.
  2. Add the coconut milk and some salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.

For the upma:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the curry leaves, ginger and garlic and red onion, sauté for 1 minute. Add the semolina and sauté until it gives off a nutty aroma; do not allow the color to change. Season with salt, add the boiling water and whisk until the mixture has the consistency of porridge.
  2. The upma should be creamy and of a soft polenta consistency.


  1. To serve, put a quenelle of upma in the centre of the plate and pour the tomato coconut sauce around it.
  2. Place the grilled lobster tail or seabass fillet, skin side upwards on top of the upma.
  3. Garnish with deep-fried noodles and edible flowers.

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