A jhal-muriwallah in King Arthur’s Court!

The year: 2004. Angus Denoon, British and a chef, came to Kolkata as a tourist. He wanted to do a  short documentary on the city’s famed street food  and the faceless men  and women who run the business. The jhal muriwallah topped the  list of the  people he was keen to meet. To him, he looked more That non-descript man (or woman) was  like a human machine standing (and sometimes sitting) for hours moving his arms in a seemingly mechanical routine. It cast a spell on him. He studied their ways, learnt how to make jhal muri, and started his own business – in the streets of London! Today you might see his quirky, colourful cart flamboyantly signed as  ‘The Everybody Love Jhal Muri Express’ at street corners, weddings, festivals and fairs, and –hold  your breath, even at No 10.

   For nearly two centuries, all kinds of things have been traded between the two countries. But of all things, jhal muri! That beats them all. The  humble puffed rice has now gone places. It may not have offered a hefty foreign exchange bounty. But it has paid back in something far more precious than that – the love and  admiration of dozens of people  of a far country. 

Angus says,"I love being a street food hawker! It’s like having your own kitchen in your van and get a chance to interact with the customers. I do sell phuckas or ghugni chaat sometimes. I get muri from Kolkata and other ingredients from Indian grocery shops found here and ther in London, but I prepare my own chutneys."

He gets tremendous response for Jhal muri. A thonga is priced at £2. What is the peak time? Angus says  In between lunch and dinner. Normally I sell about 60-70 paper containers, but it depends on the weather. During the festival time when the weather is good the number increases. My customers are everyone–Asians,  Britishers, assorted others. The Asian community in the UK is very big. In the whole of London there are two Bangladeshi, to my knowledge  selling jhal muri. You will find me in most Indian/Bangladeshi weddings.

Does he have any expansion plans? Angus says,"I have plans to make dry version of jhal muri and it can be sold in packets. In England we have big problem with snacks. Big multi million dollar companies sell take-away snacks. They don’t satisfy one fully because people will buy more. They also put in a lot of chemicals and additives which are very harmful. They are eating chips and other foods. I organize  workshops in schools and I have seen school kids love eating muri. Giving muri is great. They love it, and it’s better for them! I have served many well-to-do and famous people. I have served drug addicts. When they eat it they become normal.

He adds,"Last time when I came to Kolkata, I tried dohi phucka in  the Lake Gardens area. I liked it very much." Maybe one day it also might be there in his  menu.

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