My Inspiration For Home made Jalebi:
This recipe is inspired by the excerpt from Richard C’s “The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Novel.” The lines would revive the feeling of nostalgia in the hearts of many people from South Asia, Middle East and Africa who have ever tasted this delicious sweet treat and can’t get their hands on it anymore.
Hassan Haji stands staring at “the chippie” called JALEBI JUNCTION, and reads the sign overhead, “The odd stall, I suddenly realized, was designed to sell the delicious deep-fried dessert that Bappu the cook used to buy for me at Crawford Market. A pang of homesickness and a craving for the old taste suddenly hit with great force,”
What Is Jalebi?
For all those who are not familiar with this sweet treat – these crispy fried batter swirls are chewy and dripping with warm and aromatic sugar syrup that tastes and smells of cardamom and rose water. Definitely a dessert loaded with calories but something you can’t forget if you have ever tasted it once.
It’s a popular street food in both India, Pakistan and many other countries, known by different names of Jalebi, Jilapi, or Jilawii, also served on special occasions and celebrations. Some people add saffron, turmeric or a pinch of orange food colour to make it look more colourful and festive and some prefer to make it without any colour.
The Magic of Jalebi Making:
Watching it being made is a treat in itself. Jalebi Wallas, holding cheese cloth bundles of batter and expertly pouring quick swirls of Jalebis in gigantic woks filled with smouldering oil. Making the swirls right is a bit tricky, especially if you are a newbie or haven’t made them for a long time. Also if the batter or heat is not right, you won’t get those pretty swirls.
I hadn’t tasted this dessert for more than a year now, that too living in Lahore where it’s sold almost at every street corner, but reading about it just brought the memories attached to it too strongly to resist anymore!
Doodh Jalebi – A Ramadan Tradition:
Milk based comfort foods are a popular in Ramadan for sehri and iftar. Alongside vermicelli kheer, doodh jalebi is what I grew up eating for iftar like many other Pakistanis. What you do is, especially when jalebis get a day old and are no more crispy, you break them into tiny pieces and add to a pan of simmering milk. Let them simmer till the mix gets somewhat thick and serve hot, garnished with your favourited chopped nuts or dried fruits. So even the leftovers make a whole new delicious dish.
What Can Go Wrong & How To Fix It:
*if the batter is too thin, the jalepis will go flat. Simply add more flour to bring it to the consistency of thick pancake batter.
*if the batter is too thick, the jalepis won’t be crispy enough. All you need to do is add tiny bit of water and mix again.
*to check the consistency of batter, drop a trial swirl in the oil and you will get the idea.
*oil shouldn’t be deeper than one and a half to two inches. Too much oil makes the batter go in all directions and it would be difficult to control the shape.
*oil shoul be medium hot. Too hot and the jalebi would get very dark instantly or disintegrate. Too cold and they won’t crisp up.
*do NOT add jalebis to hot sugar syrup. That will make jalebis go limp and ruin all your hard work.
For Jalebi, Jilapi, or Jilawii Batter :
1+1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn flour (or 2 tablespoons besan/gram flour if making fermented batter).
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (or active dry yeast for fermented batter).
1 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads or a pinch orange food colour
Water to dilute the batter
Oil for deep frying
For Sugar Syrup :
1 cup water
2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon rose water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
This Is What You Do :
Method 1 :
For fermented method, mix flour, besan, yeast in a bowl. Add lukewarm water and room temperature yogurt. Make a thick but pourable batter without lumps. Beat the batter to make it elastic. Make the batter a night ahead or several hours before to allow it to ferment in a warm place. Mix in food colour (if using any)before frying jalebi.
If making with cornflour, simply mix all the dry ingredients in a non reactive bowl. Add yogurt and mix to make a thick paste. Add water gradually to make a thick batter, quite like that of pancakes. Beat the batter to make it elastic and fluffy. If the the batter is thin, Jalebis won’t retain their shape and will scatter all over in the oil. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Add food colouring, if using any. Don’t over mix now, we need the air pockets in the batter to make the Jalebis fluffy.
To make sugar syrup mix water, sugar, lemon juice and cardamom seeds in a sauce pan. Lemon juice helps stop the formation of crystals in the syrup. Simmer till the syrup begins to thicken to one thread consistency. Add rose water and turn off heat. Let it cool to room temperature.
Heat 1.5 -2 inch deep oil in a wok or deep frying pan on medium heat. The oil should be hot enough to fluff up the batter immediately but not too hot to burn them.
Check the temperature by dropping in a drop of batter. It should rise to the surface immediately without changing colour.
Pour the batter into a piping bag, ziplock bag or cheese cloth with a small hole or a ketchup dispenser bottle for easier handling.
Quickly make random swirls in the oil. You can make two, three swirls at a time. Flip when one side turns golden. It will only takes a minute and a half. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t make perfect rounds in the first few attempts, it takes a little practice to do so. The taste of your jalebis would be good anyways.
Remove them from oil, drain excessive oil on a tissue paper or colander. Place them in the sugar syrup for a few seconds while pressing down with a spoon so that they soak up enough syrup. Remove to the serving plate.
Repeat with the rest of the batter. Serve hot immediately.
Makes a big platter enough for 4-5 people