Jhunka or Zunka

This post is especially for Barbara who announced‘The taste of yellow’ event – An event to show support for LiveSTRONG Day 2008 from the blogger community.
What is LiveSTRONG?

It is a foundation started by Lance Armstrong – the cyclist, the cancer fighter, the survivor. I read his autobiography It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” last summer. It is a beautiful inspirational narration by a man who started life as a commoner, became a celebrity, faced controversy with dignity, and proved to the world that attitude and determination can beat any setback life offers. His fight with cancer has become a legend, but I love him for the fact that he has used his celebrity status for the good of other cancer patients all over the world.

So when I accidentally tripped over Barbara’s blog and read about this photo competition to raise money for cancer patients I came back immediately to my blog to post this’zunka’ recipe – A traditional Maharashtrian speciality which I prepared yesterday.   I did not have the yellow LIVESTRONG band essential for the competition.  The recipe is however a show of my support and my admiration for all those survivors who keep fighting this deadly disease with ‘ATTITUDE’.

What is LAF? (From here)

“The Lance Armstrong Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Austin, Texas. Founded in 1997 by cancer survivor and champion cyclist, Lance Armstrong, the LAF inspires and empowers people with cancer.”


zunka or jhunka is a rustic, Maharashtrian delicacy made of bengal gram flour or besan. My sister-in-law, Sarala made this once, and I got hooked to it forever. It has a sunny yellow colour, a delicate aroma that entices your senses even before you have taken your first bite. Try it – I bet you won’t regret.

If you visit Thane you must havt this at Tambe’s on Station Road, Thane (W). They makes it spicy and soft. I was introduced to Tambe’s zunka by Neela, a close friend of mine, who is prefers to order food from the canteen rather than bring home cooked lunch.  She often buys this dish.   Another friend, Asha makes a ‘mau’ (soft) version, and she adds roasted and powdered peanuts to the recipe – it works wonders but I don’t add it myself.

I love the plain unadorned rustic version.

Recipe: Jhunka or Zunka

Besan / Bengal gram flour – 2 cups
(Besan can be made at home by oven roasting bengal gram till it releases aroma, cooling and then grinding to a powder – not too fine!)
Onions (Thickly sliced or chopped roughly – which ever suits you!) – 2 medium sized
Ajwain / Aniseeds – 1tsp.
Jeera / Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp.
Parsley / Oregano – 1/4 tsp. (Optional – I noticed that oregano goes rather well with besan so I always add oregano in my besan dishes)
Coriander leaves – 2 to 3 sprigs.
Salt – To taste
Oil – 2 to 3 tbsp.
Turmeric – 1/2tsp.
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp.

Method I followed:
Chop the onions roughly.

Roast the besan till aroma is released and set aside.
Heat oil in a deep wok / kadhai. Add ajwain and jeera (To ensure that it doesn’t become gassy – we wouldn’t like that!!). Add onions. Add a little salt, turmeric and chilli powder.
Mix. Cover till the onion turn soft.
Add besan, parsley/oregano and sprinkle water all over roughly. Mix. Again sprinkle water about 1/4 cup all over. Mix till the besan gathers into soft crumbs.


Adjust salt. Mix again. It will be a little sticky. Cook stirring, cutting and mixing with a wooden spatula all the while.  The mixture will become soft, lumpy and will crumble upon touch.

To serve:
Top with chopped coriander leaves and green chillies and serve it with flatbreads of any kind – bhakri (Made with rice or bhajni), or roti.


1. My neighbour makes a dry vrsion with sugar added towards the end and tops it with half a lime squeezed all over.
2. My friend Asha, crushes roasted peanuts and adds it in the beginning after the onions.
3. Tambes grind green chillies and garlic and add the mixture before the onions. They also crackle mustard seeds instead of ajwain or jeera.
4. I use oregano, parsley or kasuri methi as they agree with besan and my tastebuds.

All the versions taste good irrespective of the additions or deletions.

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Have your say

  1. Hello Harini,
    just checked your blogs and found this recipe of ‘jhunka’. one of my favorites and when served with ‘bhakri’ it is the best meal on the planet!!

    I also do a blog on wednesday’s on the techniques and philosophies of cooking Indian food on http://www.thoughtsfromajoy.com

  2. Harini,
    i tried this. Loved the ajwain addition. Thanks for the recipe 🙂


  3. Welcome, Vini! My pleasure!

  4. Made this yesterday for dinner and needless to say there were no leftovers. 🙂 Made it with Kasuri methi. Question: Do you use fresh oregano or dry; also doesn’t oregano taste similar to ajwain?

  5. I use dried oregano while making this, about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. these days as opposed to 1 tsp as mentioned in the recipe. Yes, oregano has a similar underlying flavour profile, a little mild perhaps.

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