Puff piece

Looking at the street food of Puri, I came face to face with a problem in linguistics. In Odisha rice is converted to a snack in two ways. One is called muri in Odiya, and is common across India and east and south-east Asia. The other is called khai in Odiya and is not generally available in western India. In trying to describe the food in the featured photo, I was flummoxed. I asked the Youngest Niece whether she’d ever eaten this khai, and she hadn’t.

Then I was stuck with describing it. She knew that mudi is sometimes called puffed rice in English and has a crunch. I explained that khai has a texture like popcorn: airy but chewy. She asked “Popped rice?” That’s a good name actually. I’ll start using it. Muri, puffed rice, is made by soaking or parboiling rice before heating it. Khai, popped rice, is made by heating the grains of rice directly. I find popcorn a little annoying (Youngest Niece looked astounded when I said this) because bits of it stick to the teeth. Khai also has this problem, but to a smaller degree.

Still, it is a very popular snack around the eastern part of the country. I prefer the version which is coated in molasses. It’s a sweeter snack, and more flavourful than the caramel popcorn that the niece prefers. An eyeroll from her showed what she thought of that statement.