For some it is a breakfast meal, for many it is served as dessert and yet for others it is an evening snack complementing their daily dose of “samosas” and “chai”. Whatever form it may take, Jalebi is the indisputable dessert queen of India making even a calorie conscious person go for thoda aur..
The queen of every Indian’s heart, Jalebi is not an Indian delicacy after all but has its origins tracing back to West Asia. Just when the Persians were invading India, Jalebi or Zulabiya, invaded the hearts of Indians. One of the earliest mentions of this delicacy dates back to 1450 AD in a Jain work by the name Jinasura. In 17th century literature, it finds its place in works like Bhojanakutuhala and Gunyagnabodhini.
Known by various names jilbi, jilipi, jilapi, zelapi, jilapir pak, imrati, jahangiri and so forth, the ingredients of this crisp deep fried swirls dunked in syrup also vary from region to region. Mawa jalebi has crumbled mawa mashed into the mixture while imarti or jahangiri is made from urad dal. Like every Indian food, it has a paneer variant too- Paneer Jalebi with crushed paneer added to the batter.
For Bengalis it is Jilipi accompaning their kulhad chai and shingara for a typical Kolkatan jholkhabar(breakfast). Another form famous in bengal is Chanar Jilipi, a jalebi in the form of pantua(Bengali gulab jamun). A glass of milk with crunchy hot jalebis is favourite breakfast meal in several Indian towns like Haridwar and Indore. Gujaratis love fafda jalebi combination while Tamil Nadu and Bihar love jhangiri on Holi.
The process of making jalebis though seems simple but it is an art. Refined flour and dahi are whisked into a smooth batter and allowed to ferment for 8 hours. The mixture is then doled out in the hot oil, using a muslin cloth, fried and carefully transferred in the sugar syrup. Once they soak the syrup, they are taken out ready to serve. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the process of making jalebis is no less drool-worthy than the final product on your plate.
Jalebi has been in India for over 500 years now, it has made its way into our hearts, kitchen, our festivals and our songs too. We don’t need an occasion to have jalebi. Be it with dahi, milk, thandai, rabri or served alone, we are ever ready to grab a bite.