Jhal Muri: The Inimitable Taste Of Kolkata’s Street Food

The Jhal Muri is an adapted version of the bhel, or the dry bhel, but it is made quite differently in Bengal. As people across Kolkata have grown up loving it, everyone has their own special requests, like less chilli but more spices, more boiled yellow peas or brown chickpeas, and so on.    

The streets of Kolkata rule the popular Bengali street snack, Jhal Muri or spicy puffed rice, for decades. From couples at Victoria Memorial to school-goers returning home or friends gathering every weekend for the quintessential adda, Kolkata Street food would be incomplete without Jhal Muri. Most Bengali homes cannot think of not having it as a regular snack.   

Image Credits: Indian Eagle

The famous street food, which adds extra flavour to life and without which life in Kolkata would be pretty different, is popular in West Bengal and Bangladesh and the eastern region of India, including Bihar Jharkhand and Orissa. Jhal Muri even became popular in London when Angus Denoon, a British chef, tried this snack in Kolkata and started selling it on the streets of London. It was not limited to the United Kingdom but made its way to the United States, starting from New York City through the Bangladeshi diaspora.   

To prepare Jhal Puri, choosing the suitable variety of puffed rice becomes the most important. In West Bengal, it is made with muri (puffed rice), chopped boiled potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, onions (if asked), chillies, roasted peanuts, and bits of coconut. These ingredients are tossed in a unique spice mix (grinding roasted cumin seeds, salt, black or rock salt, dried mango powder, a pinch of garam masala powder), and a little mustard oil, and finally topped with a squeeze of lemon, freshly chopped coriander leaves, and a sprinkle of sev. The Jhal muri is indeed a customised treat.   

Image Credits: YouTube Screengrab

Why is it important to choose the right variety of puffed rice? In Kolkata, the small and stubby variety is used to make Jhal Muri. With this variety of puffed rice, the snack becomes soggy if you take a little extra time. Hence, many prefer to roast the puffed rice slightly beforehand to avoid it becoming soft from storage. If you have made up your mind to make Jhal Muri at home and hence bought the puffed rice fresh and stored it in a dry airtight container, you don’t need to roast it. But if you decide to roast it, ensure the puffed rice remains white.    

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