Calcutta is known for its street food, and Jhal Muri / Masala Muri is definitely one of the popular items available almost everywhere in this city. Though the ingredients remain almost the same for most vendors, it is the special spices, and the amount in which it is added, makes few of them special. Bishnuji is one such person, whom you will find between Girish Park and Ganesh Talkies crossing. In business for the last 50 years, he is very popular not only in the neighbourhood, but also beyond. About six months back, his son Vikas Singh opened a proper outlet near Ram Mandir, on Chittaranjan Avenue. We visited the place to taste the legacy.
The outlet (204, Chittaranjan Avenue) is between Girish Park crossing and Ram Mandir. If you are going towards Esplanade from Girish Park crossing, look for the Jorashanko Thakurbari gate on your right. Bishnu Ji Chat Centre is on the house opposite to the gate (on your left, that is) a few meters towards Girish Park.
The shop is small, but brightly coloured and well maintained. The first thing you will notice is how clean the place is. So, good news for the hygiene freaks, who avoid street food. There are two counters, one for muri, papri chat etc., and the other for sandwiches, Maggi and Wai Wai. In front of the door there are three stools for the customers. Behind the stools there is some space where you can keep your bags. Basic setup, but enough for just a chat outlet.
The first thing I tried was their Papri Chat. Most of the ingredients used here are made by them. From the papris to the muri, the spices, the bhujia – everything they make themselves. Am sure that helps in keeping the prices low and taste unique. The papris were crisp and the topping was generous. The garnishing was done with crumbled Dhokla. The chat tasted awesome. I liked the sweet chutney that was mixed with the topping. Was told that it is made from dates, and at their home off course. Completely loved the papri chaat.
Next I wanted to try something different and asked Vikas which of their sandwiches would he suggest. He named the grilled and the cheese ‘n’ corn sandwiches, from which I picked the grilled one. The breads were big and thick, grilled to perfect crispness with butter. The filling had onions, tomatoes, green bell peppers (capsicum), mayonnaise and cheese. Served along with tomato ketchup and potato chips it was a mini meal.
The Sandwich tasted good, but there were few things that needs to be corrected here. First the bread was very thick, and the filling though good, was not enough for it. Hence it tasted a bit dry, especially on the sides. Also the potato chips were not crisp enough, and Vikas apologised for that even before serving the sandwich. Nice gesture, but they should start thinking how to keep them crisp. Lastly the tomato ketchup tasted bad. When they are using quality ingredients everywhere, they should not compromise here and change the brand of tomato sauce they are using. But again Sandwiches are not their forte and I should have sticked to the chats and muris only.
I was almost full by the time I completed the sandwich, but I was yet to taste their specialty, the muri. So I ordered for one Special Singara Muri. Singara muri is something my Mother used to make a lot for our tiffin and we absolutely loved it. The difference is, what we used to have at home, and also what the normal Bengali Jhalmuriwalas sell, is more dry. And the type you will get here is the wet version. While the former is known for the crunch of the puffed rice which is mixed with oil and dry spices along with chopped veggies, in this one they mix a thick paste made with sattu, and ground nuts which both adds to the distinct taste and also makes it moist. The serving again was huge and it was really tasty.
The prices were really competitive. If you wish, you can also buy their special muri spices and paste which are priced at Rs. 80 and 70 respectively. Vikas is a friendly guy and it was fun chatting with him while he prepared my food. I will be back to taste the other items. And I think you should also pay him a visit, when you are nearby 🙂