In many parts of South Asia, puffed rice isn’t just a novelty snack food. It has a long history and cultural significance, especially in Bangladesh and eastern India where it is enjoyed at breakfast, as a street food, and during special occasions.
Known as popcorn rice or muri in Bengali, this light, crispy rice snack is made by heating rice kernels under high heat until they puff up like little clouds. The process dates back centuries and involves special traditional muri stoves.
In this post, I’ll dive into everything you need to know about rice popcorn/muri including its origins, cultural importance, and various cooking methods. I’ll also share my recipe for how to make it easily at home with some handy substitutions.
Table of Contents
Grab your puffiest popcorn bowl and let’s explore the wonderful world of muri!
The Origins and History of Muri
To understand muri, we have to go way back to its origins in East India and Bangladesh. Puffing rice has been practiced in this region for centuries. Some key historical notes:
Rice puffing likely dates back over 300 years. The exact origins are unclear, but it is known puffed rice was already established in East India by the 1700s.
Traditional Muri Stoves
Special terracotta stoves were developed to puff rice. These featured a narrow neck to allow only one or two kernels to pass through at a time for even heating.
Street Food Popularity
By the 1800s, muri was popularly sold by street vendors in major cities of Calcutta and Dhaka. It became a beloved anytime snack.
**Cultural Significance **
Puffed rice held ritual importance. It was often used in offerings and blessings during holidays like Lakshmi Puja.
Muri became a staple morning meal paired with yogurt and fried potatoes. This traditional breakfast combo continues today.
So in summary, muri has long been important in Bangladeshi and East Indian cuisine both as an everyday food and for cultural traditions. Let’s explore the various cooking methods next.
Traditional Methods for Making Muri
Authentic muri is puffed using age-old stoves that allow precise heating for uniformly puffed kernels. Here are the main traditional puffing methods:
This is the original way, using a terracotta pot specially designed for rice puffing. Rice is funnelled through the narrow top opening over an open fire.
Rice is buried in very hot sand then uncovered. The extreme heat from the sand causes the rice to rapidly expand.
Rice can also be flash fried in very hot oil for a few seconds. It puffs from contact with the high heat.
A modern shortcut is baking rice laid in a thin layer at 400F until puffed, about 15 minutes. Frequent stirring is required.
So whether using centuries old tools or newer techniques, the concept remains the same – quickly applying high dry heat to raw rice until it pops.
Why Does Puffed Rice Pop Like This?
You may be wondering, how exactly does blasting grains with heat make them puff up? Here’s the science behind it:
- Rice kernels contain a small amount of water that turns to steam when heated rapidly. This builds tremendous internal pressure.
- The outer shell then ruptures from the pressure and releases the steam, causing the grains to puff up to nearly 8 times their original size!
- The starch at the center of the kernel gelatinizes and becomes airy when the water vaporizes.
- The result is light, air-filled puffed kernels that float when placed in liquid. So cool!
Puffing rice drastically alters its texture from dense to an airy crisp crunch while concentrating its mild, subtle flavor.
Is Muri Healthy?
Now that we know why rice puffs, let’s talk nutrition. Here are some of the health benefits of puffed rice/muri:
- High in fiber – All that expansion increases the fiber content exponentially compared to regular rice.
- Low in fat and calories – Plain muri contains absolutely zero fat and very minimal calories by volume.
- Cholesterol free – No cholesterol here! Just pure carbohydrates.
- Promotes digestion – The light texture and fiber aids digestion and avoids heaviness.
- Helps lower blood pressure – Linked to reducing hypertension.
- May stabilize blood sugar – The high fiber slows digestion, which prevents spikes.
So in moderation, puffed rice can be part of a healthy diet! Now let’s get to the good stuff -how to actually make it…
How To Make This Popcorn Rice (Muri)?
Popcorn Rice (Muri) – A Puffed Rice Snack with a Rich HistoryCourse: CookbookCuisine: BangladeshiDifficulty: Easy
Traditional muri stoves are hard to source, so here’s an easy way to make puffed rice at home:
1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1-2 tsp coconut or vegetable oil
- Prepare the rice – Mix 1/2 cup raw white rice with a small amount of oil – just enough to lightly coat each kernel. Long grain works best.
- Heat a skillet – Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. You want the pan very hot so the rice will puff quickly.
- Add rice in an even layer – Add the oiled rice to the hot skillet. Spread into an even single layer across the entire pan.
- Stir frequently – Continuously stir and toss the rice as it cooks so it heats evenly. Frequent stirring is key!
- Cook until puffed – After 5-10 minutes, the rice will begin to puff up. Remove from heat once all kernels have popped open.
Plain puffed rice is just the delicious start. Here are some ways to add flavor:
- Plain puffed rice is just the delicious start. Here are some ways to add flavor:
- Savory spices: Chili powder, chaat masala, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin
- Salt: Kosher salt, sea salt, rock salt, black salt
- Citrus: Lime or lemon juice
- Sweet touches: Honey, brown sugar
- Oils and ghee: Olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, clarified butter
- Nuts and seeds: Roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds
- Get creative mixing and matching seasonings to create your signature muri flavor.
2 servings per container
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Saturated Fat 5g 25%
- Trans Fat 27g
- Cholesterol 1mg 1%
- Sodium 2mg 1%
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Carbohydrate
- Dietary Fiber 0.5g 2%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Serving Ideas for Muri
Now the fun part – how to serve your puffed rice for snacking, breakfast, or anytime! Here are some tasty ways to enjoy muri:
- Sprinkle on yogurt and top with fruit
- Toss with nuts, dried fruits, and spices for trail mix
- Layer in a parfait alternating with sweetened condensed milk
- Mix into chia puddings or overnight oats
- Use instead of crackers or croutons on soups and salads
- Scatter over ice cream, milkshakes, or desserts
- Dredge banana chunks, fruit skewers or toasted marshmallows through puffed rice
The light crunch works splendidly in both sweet and savory dishes. Get creative with recipes using this versatile puffed grain.
Tips for Making Muri
Here are some handy tips for getting the perfect puff every time:
- Use long grain white rice varieties like basmati or jasmine
- Make sure the oil evenly coats every kernel – this helps it pop
- Heat the pan very hot before adding rice
- Immediately stir after adding to prevent burning
- Spread into a thin, even layer and keep rice constantly moving
- Once puffed, remove from heat so it doesn’t scorch
- Work in smaller batches if needed to allow even cooking
- Make sure to puff rice the same day you’ll be eating it for maximum freshness
With a hot pan and frequent stirring, you’ll get light, fluffy puffed rice grains. Adjust heat and timing as needed based on your stove.
How to Store and Reheat Muri
Puffed rice is best fresh, but here are some storage tips:
- Cool completely before storing to avoid moisture forming.
- Keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
- For longer storage, freeze in bags for 1-2 months.
To restore crispness to stale puffed rice:
- Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300F for 2-3 minutes.
- Or heat in the microwave for 15-30 seconds.
- Watch closely as it can burn quickly!
With a little TLC, leftover puffed rice regains its delicate crunch.
Common Questions About Muri
Does puffed rice taste different than popcorn?
Yes, it has a very mild, subtly nutty corn flavor compared to popcorn’s bolder taste. The texture is also lighter and crispier.
Can you puff brown rice too?
It’s challenging because brown rice is harder to dehydrate sufficiently. But it can work if boiled first then thoroughly dried before puffing.
Besides rice, what else can be puffed?
Other grains like wheat, oats, millet, and corn puff well too. Seeds like amaranth and quinoa can also be puffed.
Is muri gluten free?
Yes, rice is inherently gluten free. Just avoid cross contamination when prepping/storing.
How long does puffed rice last?
It will start losing its signature crispness after a week or two. For max freshness, puff rice the day you plan to eat it.
The Light and Crunchy Verdict
The Light and Crunchy Verdict As you can see, humble rice can transform into the most delightful crispy, puffed snack with just a little heat. I hope you’ll give homemade muri a try soon and incorporate it into breakfasts, trail mixes, desserts, and more.
Let me know if you have any other favorite ways to serve this puffed rice. And if you make muri at home, I’d love to hear how it goes! This ancient snack is the perfect crunchy, wholesome treat anytime. If you’re interested in exploring more rice-based recipes, you might also want to check out some delicious Rice Soup options.