JhalMuri means to Kolkata what Bhel means to Mumbai, and even though both are based on puffed rice, they are a world apart in flavour. Between the two, Jhal Muri is easier to put together on a whim, as it does not need three kinds of chutney, and therefore requires less pre-planning than bhel. Apparently, Jhal can mean not just spicy, but also pungent , and this snack gets its jhal from mustard oil, red onions and if you are up for it : fresh green chillies !
Do you remember, Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, Namesake, where Ashima, craves for Muri in the 70’s US, and has to make do with rice krispies. We are fortunate to get our muri supplies from little Bangladeshi stores here, including Bengali chanachur(a spicy crispy namkeen) and mustard oil. Endowed with these precious resources, muri is something I whip up ever so often, whenever we need a quick, light bite.
Even though I have never been to Kolkata, the Muri we used to have in CR Park, Delhi’s Little Kolkata, was my introduction to this lovely snack. As the sun would go down, the CR park market would get filled with families, each member heading to their favourite snack wallah with Ghugni, chowmein, roll and of course muri being the biggest draws.
This is how our favourite "muri bhaiya" used to make it:
2 cups crisp puffed rice
1 medium red onion, chopped
½ a boiled potato, chopped
A little chanchur, or any spicy crisp Indian mixture-can use sev or bhujiya also
½ tsp bhuna zeera (roasted cumin powder)
Salt to taste
2 fresh green chillies
1 tsp mustard oil : very important-substitute with pickle oil if you don’t have this
Variation: I added half a small, firm tomato, finely diced. This is neither traditional, nor recommended unless the tomato is really firm, as it can turn muri soggy, but since I am very fond of tomatoes and happened to have an exceptionally firm one around, I added it this time.
Finely chopped fresh coconut pieces
Finely chopped Raw mango
1 tbsp Kala chana, or black gram, soaked overnight
Here’s our own little muri station
Mix the chanachur and salt with the muri (puffed rice)
Add the potato, onion, green chillies and tomato (if using)
Add cumin powder and mustard oil. Mix well and eat as soon as possible.