Joygun Nessa’s life revolves around rice: she eats it; her family raises it on their farm; and it supplies her with a livelihood: making muri (puffed rice).
Rice and salt and sand—as a medium for puffing the rice—are all she needs. Ms. Nessa, however, does not use just any old rice. She recommends IR8 developed by IRRI or BR11 for the best results.
To prepare her specialty, she uses a clay stove in which the fire is underground. It uses one-third less fuel than other stoves, which is important in a country suffering from fuel shortage. She has been using the stove for about 7 years.
Squatting by the stove, she stokes the fire by throwing fistfuls of wheat straw down the stove’s holes. Sometimes she uses balls of cow dung, rice hull, and sticks for fuel. The heat produced is intense.
Over one of the holes, she heats up a large clay pot with sand in it. Rice in salted water is warmed in a small pot over a different hole. She stirs the rice with a naruni, a utensil made of palm-midribs bunched together.
When the right temperature is reached, she skillfully pours the rice into the big pot with the sand and swirls it for 30 seconds. Suddenly, the rice becomes alive in a burst of steam and fills the pot.
Ms. Nessa knows exactly when the rice is done puffing. If she hesitates a moment too long, the rice will burn. With the precision of a master chef, she dumps the contents into a clay strainer and shakes out the sand.
The muri is warm and mildly salty, with a nutty taste. She makes it every day so that it’s fresh for her customers and family.
She markets the muri in bulk and in small plastic bags at the family’s grocery store. From 40 kilograms of rough rice, she gets about 26 kilograms of muri.