Snap, Crackle and Pop

Photo by Esha Samajpati. © All rights reserved

If I had to pick one of the many, many things that make living in a country different from the one you grew up in, a fun experience, I would go with the “fun of fusion.” You take a bit of this, an idea from that, and boom, you have a new favorite.

Take Rice Krispies for example, the cereal that is pretty ordinary otherwise, and makes for a good breakfast. My friend turns them into sticky, sweet bricks of deliciousness. I, on the other hand, have been using them as a substitute for puffed rice and making my own version of jhal muri, a street food from Kolkata, India. There’s still the snapping, and crackling, and popping, when the olive oil and lemon juice hit the toasted rice.

We start off with cubed, nuked potatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, quartered cold cucumbers, a sprinkling of cumin and coriander powder to taste, salt and pepper, a bunch of torn cilantro leaves, and a squeeze of lemon. All of this is mixed well with extra-virgin olive oil, and to it is added handfuls of Rice Krispies. For that extra something, get a bag of Boondis (spicy balls of chickpea flour) or Sev (spicy noodles made from chickpea flour) from the Indian grocery store.

You cannot go wrong by adding or knocking off a few ingredients here and there from this crunchy salad. It is very forgiving. Substitute cilantro with a herb of your choice, leave out the smoky cumin, add slivers of coconut, add raw purple onion, or cooked chickpeas – the options are endless. And most people would dump a handful of peanuts somewhere in the process, and that’s a good nutritious addition no doubt, but in our house, peanut is poison. So we make do without.

This guy from London, Angus Denoon, is all about the jhal muri, that I just concocted with plain old cereal. I got to tell you that his way is more authentic than mine. It’s the real deal. This is how you would make it in the city of its origin, that is, Kolkata. He has it pat down right from the stainless steel containers to the way he fashions those cone-shaped snack-holders from old magazines.

Take a look. Skip to the 2:00 mark for a peek into some Iron Chef-like dicing skills, not unlike that of his Kolkatan counterparts.