Jhalmuri (ঝালমুড়ি) is a popular street food in eastern India, especially in West Bengal. It is a great snack food – light, healthy and quick to fix and bursting with flavor. It’s spicy, tangy, crispy, & crunchy! Jhal in Bangla means spicy and Muri is of course the puffed rice and it is made by heating rice in a sand-filled oven. Muri is to rice as popcorn is to corn.
Puffed rice has been an intrinsic part of Bengal’s diet for years. Rice is traditionally “puffed”, or turned into muri, by throwing washed and cleaned grains on top of sand heated in a pot. In rural areas, muri is eaten as a snack, and also with curries and cooked vegetables. It also features frequently in religious ceremonies.
Made with puffed rice, chopped boiled potatoes, sev (chickpea flour noodles), fried lentils, tomatoes, cucumber, roasted peanuts, bits of coconut, and chopped green chillies; all of which is tossed in a special spice mix, and of course mustard oil, and finally topped with a squeeze of lemon, freshly chopped coriander leaves.
The special spice mix is made by grinding roasted cumin seeds, salt, black or rock salt, aamchoor (dried mango powder), dried red chilli powder, and a bit of garam masala together. Some might even want to add roasted bay leaf to the mix, and grind the entire mixture together to a fine powder. This spice mix is the only thing that’s made ahead and stored.
This snack food is meant to be spicy and traditionally demands the use of green chillies only which lend it the heat or the ‘jhal’. The addition of a dash of lemon makes it tangy and the sprouted moong dal and Bengal grams along with roasted peanuts add the crunchiness to the crispy puffed rice and then a drizzle of mustard oil along with chaat masala, onion pieces & coconut slices give it the ultimate taste and flavor.
The Jhalmuri is literally a customised treat. And onions are usually avoided, unless someone specifically wants it, which is rarely the case. Bengalis have rules for eating jhal muri too. It must only be eaten out of cones or bags fashioned out of newspapers. Puffed rice is first poured into the palm, then tossed into your mouth with practised ease.
Jhalmuri is my favorite snacks and it is best available at street vendors in eastern India. This is also very much liked by Jaya & Babai. The delicacy has now crossed the borders of our country!
British chef Angus Denoon has been selling jhalmuri on the streets of London for almost a decade since he first tasted it on the streets of Kolkata. Denoon’s van, the Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express, has found a multitude of fans in London.