Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

Jhal muri – finally cracked it!

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What is nice about muri (otherwise known as puffed rice) is the crispiness. The word jhal refers to the heat of Capsaicin e.g., thai green chili. Jhal Muri often contains ingredients like chopped tomatoes that can potentially make the muri soggy. After half a lifetime, I think I have finally cracked it – no more soggy muri. The technique is part trick and part clever choice of ingredients.

Puffed rice, dried red chili, mustard oil, green chili, red onion, pappadam, bhujia, pumpkin seeds (or peanuts)

If you live in Kolkata, your muri has the aroma of rice and it is crunchy. If you are elsewhere, you are in God’s hands. In California Bay Area, you get Korean puffed rice which lacks the full flavor profile of Bengali muri (there, I said it) but has the pillowy-ness. If your muri has an offensive smell, give up and wait for the food distribution chain to get better. If the moisture gets to the muri, it can be corrected by roasting.

Prepping the muri: Place a tsp of mustard oil in a kadai, let it reach smoking point, turn down heat and add couple of torn dry red chili peppers until they are fragrant or you are sneezing, whichever comes first. Add 2-3 cups of muri, toss to coat, add 1/4 tsp of salt and lightly roast the muri on low heat. Shut off heat, let cool and store in a dry airtight container. You can eat this for snacks as is. It is divine with a cup of tea. If you are preparing the jhal muri immediately, you don’t need to stow away.

Choosing the ingredients of jhal muri: The dry ingredients are your friends. I get lazy when making snacks and prefer ready to eat dry snacks like pappadam (fried or roasted and then crushed into small pieces), bhujia (your favorite brand, but simplest is often the best), roasted lentils or nuts or seeds (e.g., chana or peanuts or sunflower). For two cups of roasted muri, add no more than half cup of dry snacks. Muri is the king here, so you don’t want to drown it out. Less distraction is not a bad choice here.

See the alternate recipe by Ranveer Brar below for other additions like boiled potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro leaves, sprouted black chickpeas, boiled yellow peas. The only one that you might want to think twice is the pappadam. Jagged edges of traditional pappadam when broken are not pleasant mouthfeel for some. Peanuts are often the preferred choice, but substitute if you have allergies. I do like sprouted black chickpeas in my muri but not the boiled potatoes. I rarely have yellow peas in my pantry but the taste is indeed very Bengali. A relative of mine swears by addition of a tablespoon of sattu, roasted and powdered black chickpeas.

The wet ingredients are your nemesis. Tomato is too wet and beyond rescue, skip it. If you must, add roasted and powdered skin of tomatoes for the flavor. If adding, I also recommend adding air dried cilantro leaves and ground Persian limes or even sumac.

The key step (or the “trick”): Chop up 2 Tbsp of onion and a green chili (possibly Thai chili or similar in heat) in a large bowl . Add 2 tsp of raw mustard oil. Toss to coat the onions and green chili with mustard oil. This step prevents subsequent sogginess.

Note that mustard oil is not optional. It brings the mustard sharpness (aka jhanjh) that is quintessential here. The sharpness going up the back of your throat and rising up your nose is a must have part of the experience.

Finally: Add the muri, dry ingredients, salt to taste and toss. Eat soon. I did once leave it around for 15 minutes and it was still crispy and that is how the “trick” was born.

An alternate: Bengali magic by Ranveer Brar (video link). Note how he leaves adding the wet ingredients to last. He insists on adding the mustard oil from a jar of mango pickle, I like it but I don’t find it to be critical. The spice mix (slow roasted and powdered – 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 Tbsp fennel, 1 tsp coriander, 2-3 green cardamom seeds, pinch of salt) is also nice, but again not a must have. I often roast the spices, cool and keep whole and powder them last minute with a mortar and pestle.

Written by Som

May 23, 2022 at 2:27 am

Posted in Recipe

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One Response

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  1. I like this preparation .

    Ratnabali Datta

    January 15, 2023 at 1:00 pm

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