Munch. Munch and talk. Munch and walk in the maidan. Munch and see the world pass by. Munch and romance. Munch and ramble down the riverside. Munch and **rok'er adda (the bengalee-group discussion about anything from leonardo - da vinci / bernstien / di caprio - we bengalees know it all). The meet-and-greet munch. 

**rok - rock = any place to rest the derrière on the pavement - be it steps / buttrest at the entrance of any house / leaning-on-the-lamp-post or whatever.

Jhaal Muri epitomises the 'go' snack - either physical and/or verbal. Nah, it's not a snack that'll alleviate your senses nor tantalise them tastebuds. It's a feel-good. A well-being. All's-right-with-the-world kinda sensory. It's the munch of a fleeting moment.

 Thyyamdancer shooting the Jhaal Muriwallah By theyyamdancer

 

Thyyamdancer shooting the Jhaal Muriwallah

The Must-Have's when making Jhaal Muri

These are must have's in my opinion. 

  • Puffed rice - it's the base.
  • Peanuts - roasted
  • Onions - raw red onions cut small
  • Coconut - small pieces
  • Potatoes - boiled and cut into tiny pieces
  • Dried yellow peas - soaked overnight and boiled (a tough find, few vendors have it)
  • Green chilly - cut into tiny pieces

All the above is put into a mog (usually aluminium, resembling a huge mug

To that is added a splash of mustard oil, dash of salt, dash of the masala-mix (gawdknows what magic ingredients that is made of) and a squeeze of lime. Garnished with cilantro - a lil bit more of the coconut (on request) and bhujia (tiny crispy flavoured 'sticks' of fried gram flour).

Avoid this when preparing Jhaal Muri

  • Tamarind juice - some vendors only have this and not lime. This makes the puffed rice soggy - taking out the crunch in the munch. It's a positive NO.
  • Tomato and/or Cucumber - this again makes the puffed rice soggy. Besides, this ain't a salad.
  • Thin creamish puffed rice - these are good for Bhel Puri. For Jhaal Muri it's gotta be white and puffy - the puffier, the better the crunch.
  • Chanachur - this is the much spicier Bengali version of the 'Bombay Mix'. It's a savoury mix of fried lentils, peanuts, chickpea flour noodles, flaked rice. Having a strong flavour, it more often than not, cut's out any other flavour in the Muri.
  • Being served in a cone made from paper. The finished product must come in a thonga (packet made from newspaper). It's easier to pour the Jhaal Muri out.

Please do not eat with finger tips - all the flavours and the crunch will never come together. It's not a nibble. You gotta munch.

Pour a mouthful in the palm, then plunk it into your mouth. This aint about table manners.

Here's how ...

Tell the vendor before he begins the preparation - no chilli, lil salt, not this, not that. Give him instructions. Don't feel shy.

Jhaal Muri is the Bengali variant of the Bhel Puri. Jhaal = spicy. Muri = puffed rice.

With the first plonk-in-the-mouth - you get the tangy taste of the 'magic' masala and a hint of lime juice. If you're not used to raw mustard oil - I'm sure the pungent smell of the oil will come through too.

With the first bite you'll encounter, maybe the crunch of the coconut, maybe the soft potato, maybe roasted peanut and/or the dried green pea.

You never know what you're going to encounter with each bite. Each bite is different. It's a surprise. A revelation.

This is one snack which don't feed you to your gullet. Which is why, with the last handful - one wishes for a repeat order. By then, you've gone way past the Jhaal Muriwallah. Oh well...

Jhaal Muri always keeps you wanting more. 

It's the munch of a fleeting moment - you wish, would never end.

Where to get Jhaal Muri

Jhaal Muri vendors too have their 'constant' spot. One finds more of them in the office para's (neighbourhoods). Muri is had between breakfast and lunch. Definitely with your cuppa chai in the evening. Or whilst leaving work - on the way to catch a bus or train. 

As with the Phuchkawallahs - you'll see them too in the parks/maidan, street corner, or wherever there is a bunch of street-food vendors.

In trains, whether travelling in Bengal - or whether the train is coming into Bengal. They're in the train. Not the best Jhaal Muri. Travelling from Chennai, and the gawdawful inevitable stop at Satragachi - one just gives in. Haven't had the stuff for more than a week - anything'll do!!

I have two till-death-do-us-apart vendors in the city.

The first is the man who sits on the pavement outside Vardan Market in Camac Street. Probably from either Bihar or UP - he's on the spot by 11am everyday. He has this HUGE bag of Muri - next to all the other ingredients. Nope, he don't have no chanachur or tomato nor cucumber or tamarind juice. He squeezes one full half-lime into the mixture.  His seasonings are just-so. It's perfect. The man is a genious. He is well well aware of flavours. He is a tad more expensive than the rest - but heck, he sure is worth every bit of the extra INR 5.

The other is a Bengali. His spot - Triangular Park, south Kolkata. He sells Muri only in the evenings, for extra income. He has some other job in the morning. His wares are kept on a wicker stand - the Muri kept in a big  square tin. He is the only man who I've discovered has the boiled dried yellow peas. Haven't come across too many vendors who have that. Wonder if he's still there - probably not.

Next time you're in Kolkata - either rambling or on the go - do yourself a favour. Have some Jhaal Muri. Munch. The world, for just that moment - will seem a better place.

I'd like to dedicate the Jhaal Muri article to the 'good' Captain Mahajan! It was/is his favourite Bengali 'treat'. Wonder… how jhaal was his muri?