Before we start getting to know this wonderful sweet dish, I want to explain the term “as straight as jalebi”. It’s a phrase used in Urdu in a sarcastic way, referring to a person’s cleverness and you say, “Well, we know that he is as straight as jalebi”, but as we can see, jalebi is not straight at all!
Jalebi, also known as zulbia, is a sweet dish served in many countries in South Asia. Its history takes us back to the ancient Indian and Mughul era, and then it travelled to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Indonesia and The Middle East. It is called zulabia in Arabic, and is simply described as fried dough. It is a bit similar to thin straight doughnuts.
Jalebi came to Pakistan after the partition in 1947, and soon became an important part of its food culture. In different parts of Pakistan, it is served in different styles. In Punjab it is served as doodh jalebi (in milk ), and it is served warm. In Karachi, it is served with tea and samosas. Some people add flavours of saffron or rose water to make it a bit different.
I will now share a simple recipe of this amazing treat. I love the whole process of its composition and construction, which makes it an extraordinary and interesting dish of the sub-continent.
My recipe may vary from other recipes as I always try to make things convenient and easy to cook.
- One cup white flour
- 2 tbsp corn flour
- ½ tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- Few drops of yellow food colour
Step 1: Preparing Batter
To prepare the batter, put all the above-mentioned ingredients in a bowl. Mix them well and add water to make the batter a medium consistency. In the end, add the yellow food colour or saffron, depending on your preference. I normally leave the batter overnight at room temperature if the weather is not too hot, it becomes a bit fluffy.
Step 2: Frying
Take a squeeze bottle with the same nozzle as we have for tomato sauce. You may wish to recycle your tomato sauce bottle and put the batter in that. Start the frying process in a deep frying pan, making sure the oil is properly hot. Make the spiral twisted shaped jalebis in the oil. The more you practice, the more you become an expert in making them.
Step 3: Making sugar syrup
Take one litre of water and one cup of sugar and cook them both together. Make sure to boil the sugar syrup properly until it becomes golden brown in colour. Add the fried jalebis to the hot sugar syrup for five minutes and take out to serve.
After frying, the spiral coils will be crunchy and sweet and ready to be served.
This spiral, web-like, crunchy sweet thing is specially prepared, decorated, packed and distributed on very special occasions like weddings, birth celebrations, Eids, Christmas, Diwalis and almost all the important festivities.
My childhood memories of Eid are filled with the aroma of henna and jalebis cooked by the women of the family and served in silver decorated platters to the guests. I remember in those days, there wasn’t any squeeze bottle. The ladies used to put the batter into thin muslin scarves and tie it with thread, and in the same way they put the batter into the oil for frying.
After the final stage when the jalebi is taken out of the sugar syrup, it is ready to be served and eaten. Traditionally people like to put silver foil as a topper. It is served with milk or rice pudding as extras.
Lahore is a one-of-a-kind city in Pakistan. It has the flavour of the ancient cities, rich cultural heritage and colours of different eras including the Mughul Emperor. Aurangzeb, the Mughul Emperor was in love with jalebi made in Lahore. When you travel to the old city in Lahore, you will be able to find many places where people make fresh jalebis, served in traditional clay pots. Many families are still engaged in this business after many generations, and they have so many stories relevant to it.
My favourite style of eating jalebi is to eat it while having tea, but you can choose your own favourite style.
During my Taste Tours, I have come across many customers who were staring at this amazing looking treat with so much curiosity and wonder. I remember a group of ladies were looking at jalebi and wanting to know how it is made and what it tastes like. After after tasting it, one woman said she was in love with this unique tasting dessert and admired the chefs for its perfect look and textures. She said she’s going to try the recipe for Christmas. On all my tours as a guide, I love telling people the recipe of this, just like I do with Biryani. It is indeed one of the most interesting recipes I know.
It is easy to buy and order jalebi if you are living in the western suburbs of Sydney. It is easily available at shops as take away. If you are keen to taste the best jalebis in town, join us on our Beirut, Bangladesh and Beyond tour to experience the richness and delicateness of this amazing sweet thing. I am sure you will admire its uniqueness and will say to your friends that “You are posing as straight as Jalebi.” 😉