For some time now, I have been craving Jalebis- a popular Indian sweet that is made by deep-frying a flour batter in kind of a pretzel or circular spiral shape, which is then soaked in sugar syrup.
Growing up there was this ad for cooking oil that used to come on Indian television. The ad starts with this little boy who decides to leave his house because everyone shouts at him all the time. Somebody known to the family finds the small boy sitting at the station and the boy tells him that he doesn’t plan to go back home. To get the boy back home, the old guy tells him that his mom has just made hot, out of the oil Jalebis.
You should hear the excitement and the greed in the boy’s voice when he says “Jalebi”. The boy then thinks its a better idea to just go back home and there to greet him are these warm, orange colored spiral shapes, more popularly known as Jalebis. Because of the really cute boy who was the real star of the advertisement, the ad was one of the most popular advertisements of that time. But the ad also told the love Indians have for the very popular sweet Jalebi.
Jalebis are a popular sweet to buy from the market when you are expecting some guests at home.
Whenever we went to our grandparent’s place for vacation, we always made it a point not to eat anything before on the long drive to their place. It was a given that my grandfather would have a plate of Jalebis, samosas and tikki chaat to greet us on our arrival the first day. Summer vacation at my grandparents always came with a 5-6 kg increase in the body weight. Sometimes even more.
When this post goes live it will be 15th August in India. Our Independence Day. So I figured featuring Jalebis for this week’s GMT would be apt!
I would have loved to just be able to go to the market and buy a packet of freshly made jalebis from the local mithai (sweets) shop.
But….harsh reality of my world- where I stay you can’t get jalebis. Even in Phoenix or Tucson, the closest places to us where Indian food is served, I have not found a restaurant that serves jalebis the way I like- thin and crispy. They all serve jalebis that could easily masquerade as imarthis and are generally fat and soggy. Don’t get me wrong I love imarthis- but I don’t like the jalebis that look like imarthis but are actually just jalebis.
And since I have been craving them for the longest time ever, I did what I always do when I crave for something Indian where we live- I took to making the jalebis in my kitchen.
The fact that it is Independence Day on the 15th gave me the added nudge I needed to try something that to me seemed really complicated.
But when I made these, I realized it really isn’t that complicated. Just a little time consuming, especially since we do not have the huge kadhai (cooking vessels) that all sweet shops in India use to fry the jalebis. At home you can only fry 3-4 at a time, taking up a little more time than required.
But the results- oh so worth the trouble! Especially if you are living far away from your home country where these things are available in every nook and corner.
The best jalebis I have ever had (probably also because of the memory associated with it) have been in Jodhpur, Rajasthan at my friend B’s place. Whenever I would spend the night at her place her father would get freshly made, hot jalebis for the two of us for breakfast. Dunked in warm milk, the whole packet would be devoured by us. The jalebis used to be thin and crisp. Just how I like them.
These jalebis came quite close to those ones. I had so many that now I am sick of the Jalebis (but as I am writing this I just put another one in my mouth). Believe me, these are really addictive. Since they are thin and crispy, they are really light, fooling you to have more than you can digest.
Did you know that jalebis are also used as a cure for headaches?
In Pakistan, (a country that celebrates their independence day today on the 14th of August), jalebis are actually used as a remedy for headaches in some parts, where the jalebi is placed in boiling milk and left to stand before eating.
Origins of Jalebi can be traced back to ancient India, but the modern day jalebi that we are more familiar with probably arrived from the middle east during the period of Mughal rule in India.
In the Early 1900s, Jalebis were used to hold ice cream, an idea put forth by Ernest A Hamwi. Jalebi was also a treat for an American family, until the invention of cones (source: wikipedia). And probably the reason why its still so popular to serve jalebis with vanilla ice cream.
You can also eat jalebis with some rabri (reduced milk) or condensed milk. Or even with plain warm milk. Or just straight out of the syrup.
Any way you eat them, I hope you enjoy these jalebis and also have a Happy Independence Day!
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2½ tbsp rice flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- few strands of saffron
- ¼ tsp turmeric (mainly for the color)
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- ⅓ cup lukewarm water + 3 tbsp warm water for the yeast (might require a little more)
- oil, for frying (you can add 1 tbsp ghee to this oil)
- (you will be leftover with some syrup that can be used to make tea, shake or even cakes)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 5-6 cardamom pods, crushed slightly (or a pinch cardamom powder)
- few strands of saffron
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Dissolve yeast in 2 tbsp warm water. Cover and let sit 5 minutes.
- Combine the flours, sugar, spices, oil in a large bowl. Add the yeast and water little at a time and mix, making sure there are no lumps.
- Add enough water to make a pancake like batter. Let ferment covered for 1-2 hours.
- Fifteen minutes before you are ready to fry, boil the sugar and water together with the cardamom pods. Let boil till all the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar syrup attains one string consistency. Add the lemon juice and saffron. Switch off heat.
- Mix the fermented batter well. Add it either to a Ketchup Plastic Bottles or to a piping/ziploc bag fitted with a number 3 nozzle.
- Heat the oil in a flat frying pan about 1½″ deep. You can add a spoon full of ghee to pre-heated oil at this stage to add to the aroma. To check if the oil is ready, put a drop of batter in the oil, if the drops sizzles and comes up without changing color right away, the oil is ready. Keep the flame at medium low heat for frying once you attain the right temperature of about 350F.
- Quickly and patiently squeeze out the batter into the hot oil making about 6-8 small circular motions. Start from outside making circles & ending somewhere in the middle ensure these concentric circles & sealed. Its ok if you don't get the perfect shape. I didn't either. They will taste great either ways. Remove from oil once golden brown on both sides. Transfer into the warm syrup.
- Allow Jalebis to remain in the syrup for just a minute, using a kitchen tong to flip & let both sides soak syrup, shake off excess sugar syrup and quickly move to a plate. Do not let them sit more than a minute, else they will get soggy. Since mine were thinner, I just let them sit for about 30 seconds on each side and took them out.
- Serve hot, with some warm milk if you like.
- This video from Manjula's kitchen (http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2007/04/02/jalebi-sweet/) will help in general. Though the recipe I used is a mix of several that I found online.
- The oil should be neither too high nor too low. Too hot oil will not yield a good shape jalebis- as they will rise up too quickly for you to shape them (unless you are a professional and can pipe the heck out in just a second) and too low a temperature will not make them crunchy. The temperature should be around 350F.
- At the correct temperature it should take the jalebis about 3 seconds before the jalebi rises up to the top.
- If you have one, use the biggest flat frying pan (atleast 3 inch deep) you have. I used a kadhai (a wok) because that's what I had, but it was more time consuming as the wok wasn't that big to fry too many at a time.
- The lemon juice is essential in the syrup. It is what gives the hint of tanginess to the jalebis (besides the fermented batter). It also makes sure that the sugar doesn't crystallize while sitting.
- The syrup should be warm (but not piping hot) when you dip the fried jalebis in the syrup.
- You could use a piping bag fitted with a number 3 nozzle or a ketchup bottle, which is far more convenient. I used a chocolate piping bottle that I got from Chocoley.com. The nozzle tip was very small resulting in the thin, crispy jalebis you see in the pictures. If you prefer thicker jalebis, use a slightly thicker opening. How thick the nozzle opening is what determines the width of the final jalebi (they do puff up a little, so keep that in mind as well).
- You can store jalebis in an air tight container for 3-4 days without refrigerating. You can microwave them if you want them a little hot but remember that the microwave does take away a little from its crispiness. You could probably heat them in the oven, but that would require a little preheating and might not be the most efficient way to heat them.