Like the Gulab Jamuns, Jalebis are one of the most popular sweets within the Indian community. The shape of the jalebis is mostly spiral and it’s made from a variation of flours depending on tradition. In some parts of India, it’s made from gram flour, in some parts from urad dall flour and in some places from plain flour. Most jalebis are small but I have seen large jalebis made the size of a large pizza for some Parsi friends when they were celebrating their New Year.
Jalebis are best eaten fresh and warm. Most tend to go soft and limp if left around overnight. Gujarati’s like to have jalebi and lamba gathia with sambharo, chutney and fried chillies for the Sunday brunch. For those of you living in London and Leicester will have seen the queues outside the Gujarati takeaways on Sunday mornings.
I will admit that it is not an easy sweet to master. I thought that creating the spiral shape would be the hardest part but actually, it’s the making of the jalebi batter to the right consistency which requires real talent. The jalebis when cooked should be able to soak up the syrup and stay crisp.
I grew up watching my father and later my father in law make these hot and fresh during Diwali celebrations and at weddings they catered at but never attempted to make them. I was too busy tasting them. My poor family had to keep trying out my jalebis as I made at least 4 batches of jalebis since Christmas before we were all happy with the results. I am glad that I did not give up.
Ingredients for about 20 -25 jalebis
Time: 1 Hour
For the jalebi:
2 cups of plain flour
Half a cup of live yoghurt (preferably sharp too)
1 litre cooking oil for frying the jalebis
2-3 drops of orange or red food colouring
For the syrup:
1 and half cups of sugar
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of cardamom powder
A couple of drops of lemon juice
1. Take one cup of plain flour and add the yoghurt to it. Using sharp yoghurt helps with the fermentation of the batter. Add half a cup of warm water and mix well. The batter should be quite thick and smooth.
2. Cover this mixing bowl and keep it in a warm place for about 12-14 hours. I kept my bowl inside an insulated box.
3. After 12-14 hours, you should see little bubbles which means that the batter is fermenting well.
4. Add the remaining plain flour to the mixture and stir well. Also add the food colouring. Getting the right colour can be hard but this can be adjusted if the jalebis turn out a paler colour.
5. Stand the mixing bowl in a bigger bowl which should be filled with hot water. Let this stand for half an hour. The warmth will help with the fermentation of the dough. Whilst the batter is being fermented, prepare the syrup.
For the syrup:
6. In a deep frying pan or saucepan, add the sugar and one cup of water. Allow this to dissolve.
7. The syrup should be of one-thread consistency. To check this, take a drop of the syrup and rub it between your thumb and first finger. When you separate the thumb and finger, the syrup should be thick enough to form a thin string. Add a couple of drops of lemon juice to the syrup. This stops the sugar from crystallising.
8. Add the saffron and cardamom to the syrup and lower the heat.
9. Now it’s time to make the jalebis. Pour the jalebi batter into an empty plastic tomato ketchup or mustard dispenser. You can use any similar plastic dispensers. Traditionally, the chef uses either a muslin type cloth or a metal container called a “lota” with a hole at the bottom. Most chefs take their own jalebi makers with them if they are catering anywhere.
10. Heat some oil in a large frying pan. Once the oil is hot, reduce the temperature to medium. To test whether the oil is hot, drop a few drops of batter to the oil. If the batter rises too quickly to the top, the oil is hot and the heat should be reduced to medium. Gently pour the batter directly into the oil in small spiral like patterns, taking care to make sure the edges are joined to the rest of the jalebi. I started from the middle and made my spiral outwards. (Don’t worry if the shape doesn’t happen – even mis-shapen jalebis taste great and won’t go wasted!)
11. The batter will sink to the bottom and rise up slowly. Turn the jalebis and cook the second side until they are slightly firm, crisp and of a dark yellowish colour. (If you are not happy with the colour of your jalebi’s you can add a couple more drops of the food colouring.)
12. At this stage, remove the sugar syrup (often called Chasni) from the heat.
13. Remove the jalebis with a tong and dip them into the sugar syrup for less than a minute.
14. Remove and finish making the rest of the jalebis. Enjoy them whilst they are nice and warm and sweet!
Images courtesy of Mina Joshi
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