Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bygone Blues! Bhadbhunjas and Bhadang!


Bhadang is made with murmura, muri, kurmurey or churmurey, aka puffed rice. Raw rice is soaked and then puffed or popped in a roasting pan which is fixed in baked soil on top of the little wood fired furnace or ‘bhatti’. The pan would sometimes be filled with sand (which allows for perfect and even, slow dry roasting).

Hawkers selling freshly puffed crisp kurmure were a regular feature of our cities in the past. As a finished product in bhel or chudva, these kurmurey were sold by bhelpuri carts or by hawkers who had a huge platter piled high with the chudva  sandbagged into place by tiers of peeled pink onions, brightest red tomatoes and yellow, plump and juicy lemons. Did they take lessons as construction workers in safe loading or scaffolding or as foodies in plating and presenting food? The platter would be carried on the hawker’s head while he would carry a cane stand slung over his shoulder. This stand was multipurpose. It could be used to prop the platter on rest mode and also store the hawkers tools and implement and packaging materials, i.e. bits of news paper. Oh the fragrance of these mounds of crispies, undiminished by their exposure to the harsh elements! And the call of the hawker still echoes in my ears… chudvaaaaa… phalliiiiii… sssseeV!

The packed kurmura we get these days often absorb smells of the grocery stores -desi stores have this horrible nagchampa of some such agarbatti/ tacky soap or detergent smells latching on to stuff and ruining their taste! If it’s not the awful scents, the kurmurey get rancid and soggy, the packs have too much food dust when the packaging gets crushed. The height is when sometimes it hosts evil weevils that even   Australian Customs and Quarantine are so mortally scared of!

These days ready made packed savoury stuff abounds and one is spoilt for choice with so many brands and varieties of snacks vying for our attention from the shelves of the desi store! Regular, Masala, Garlic, Spicy, Diet, Jain! And these snacks come in hermetically sealed, nitrogen packed, crush proof packs, spill proof packs, resealable zip lock packs, blister packs, pearl pet reusable jars! Wow! The consumer hasn’t been pampered like this before. But everything in bright and hi-tech packaging doesn’t always turn out good all the way inside. Never go shopping on an empty stomach, is a lesson I have learnt after a few episodes of trashing ‘just opened’ packets of snacks as the rancid odours of peanuts, oil, coconut accost the nose.

At times like this my mind goes back to those visits to the ‘bhadbhunja’ shop where the local bhadbhunja made pohey and kurmurey of various types -thick, thin, fragrant – basmati, ambey mohor (mango blossom) varieties of rice, transparent, opaque – a myriad varieties of these crispies!  Popped jowar was in demand especially during naag panchmi in the month of Shravan. Paddy puffs suddenly became pricey during Diwali as they had a role to play in the Lakshmi Pooja, bursting with self- importance, filled till they spilled into little ornamental pile-up clay pots along with coriander seeds and round airy light batashas candies. We kids used to be sent to the market to buy these during Diwali and used to help mother decorate the altar in the afternoons after a heavy morning of easting on Diwali goodies or ‘pharal’. Patiently answering my incessant curious questioning, Mother used to explain that this was a thanksgiving gesture or symbol of prosperity and plenty that was being celebrated post the harvest. The paddy puffs symbolised the staple rice, the coriander seeds stood for all the spice of life and the sugar puff batashas were representative of the sweet things in life! What a lovely explanation that was to my child’s mind!

Some sweets at the bhadbhunja’s store were the juicy revadis or sesame nougat chewys and the til halwa  or candied sesame seeds and sakhar phutanas, wherein sugar syrup was cleverly crafted to coat sesame seeds and roast whole chickpeas into white and coloured star shapes. Other usual fare was the salted peanuts (khari muri) roasted split chana daal and whole chana, chana jor garam- so many healthy goodies! The local bhadbhunja shop had the seal of mother’s approval after some overt checking, which obviously embarrassed us! The shop failed on some counts and we were not allowed to eat the wickedly gleaming red savoury peas and the neon green batanas, as they had some spurious dyes according to mother.

Truly green enterprise this, the packaging was also environmentally friendly! We used to take large clean cloth bags to bring the kurmurey while sundry stuff was unceremoniously packed in old newspaper and tied with cotton thread.

And the price! Oh, this stuff had all the pathos of being the food of impoverished and students who ate a handful of kurmurey and drank gallons of water for their stomachs to bloat. They surely won some Jannath Shankarsheth scholarship and became great souls as adults. And it had all the romance of struggling actors or artists who subsisted on kurmurey and chanas and returned as natives to these shops at the height of their successful careers! We simply can’t replicate the glory of this humble snack food with the colourful boxes of sickly sweetish rice krispies from the brightly lit aisles of our supermarkets.

Kurmurey and stuff like that was oil free, easy to digest, quick to make into a dish and fun to eat! A far cry from what members of the Snack Food Association produce in tonnes to slowly fatten or salt the masses before killing them!

Have some bhadang while reliving these lovely memories. Bhadang is spiced kurmura – a Kolhapur/ Sangli speciality laced heavily with garlic. Even with the bit of oil, it still is healthy!


4 cups kurmurey (the thick opaque type) picked and cleaned

¾ cup peanuts

½ cup roasted chana daal

1 tablespoon chopped garlic or garlic powder

1 tablespoon chilli powder (or more)

½ teaspoon haldi

½ teaspoon cumin powder

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste (1 teaspoon or less)

2 tablespoon oil (or a bit more)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A pinch of hing

1 tablespoon methkoot (optional)

½ cup sliced kopra (optional)


In a large pan or kadhai heat the oil and add the mustard seeds to pop. Add the peanuts and fry them a bit (take care not to burn). Add the kopra slices and fry very lightly. It will fry more along with the other stuff. Add the garlic, hing, haldi, chilli powder and fry a bit. Add the chana dal and fry some more. Add the kumura and roast well until the oil coats all the kurmuras. Add a bit more oil if you like. You will notice that the whole mixture will start feeling a bit lighter as you keep on roasting it as the kurmura loses its moisture. Add the salt, sugar and the methkoot and mix well. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Store in an airtight jar after the bhadang are completely cool. Bhandang makes an anytime snack, picnic food, good to serve as a snack with drinks with some chopped onion and coriander sprinkled on it! The garlic flavour is distinctive and very tasty!

1 comment:

  1. lovely shruti.. u really took me for a walk down the memory lane....


Welcome weary web wanderer!
I hope you have found whatever you were looking for!
I would love to know what you thought of my recipes and posts- so why don't you drop a line?!