Jalebi | Famous Street Food of India.


Jalebi An Incredible Indian Delicacy.

Jalebi is the most popular hot-and-crispy street sweet available at every corner of India. It has derived its name originally from Zulbia which is another very popular sweet in the countries of South Asia, West Asia and North Africa.

During the festivals like Ramadan and Diwali, these become particularly popular and their sales increase by a considerable height.

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Jalebi Photo.

Jalebi Making.

Jalebi is made by deep frying a wheat flour (maida) batter in circular patch shapes or in pretzel shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup and served hot and crispy. The sweets are served either warm or cold.

When served hot they have crispy texture, but when they are served cold, they gain a chewy texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating. A few drops of citric acid or lime juice are sometimes added to the sugary syrup to sensationalize the flavour.

A few drops of rose water is added as well for attributing fragrance. Jalebi is sometimes eaten with assorted curd, rabri (a sweet dish in North India) along with optional other flavours such as kewra (scented water).

Jalebi Food etymology.

Food etymology says that Jalebi had derived its preparation method from a similar dish of West Asia. History reveals an interesting record. According to Hobson-Jobson, the word jalebi means corruption in the Arabic (zulabiya) or in Persian (zalibiya).

That is why Jalebi has some spiral wiring that denote corruption or complexity informally. In Christian communities in West Asia, it is served on the Feast of the Theophany, often with dry sugar and cinnamon or confectioner’s sugar.

In Iran, zulabiya is traditionally distributed among the poor people during Ramadan. History also reveals that a tenth century cookbook gives several recipes for different sweets. The most popular among those recipes as mentioned in that cookbook by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi was zulabiya (Jalebi).

History of Jalebi.

When Persian invaders came to Medieval India, this dish was brought over here. Jalebi was known as Kundalika (spiral) or Jalavallika in fifteenth century. Ancient Jain author Jinasura first mentioned jalebi in the context of a dinner held by a rich merchant in his novel Priyamkarnapakatha.

Geographic distribution of Jalebi around the world is really vast. A Syrian immigrant Ernest A. Hamwi is believed to have used the Persian version ‘zalabia’ as an early ice cream cone for the first time in United States.

In Bangladesh, ‘jilapi’ is generally consumed as a sweetmeat and it happens to be one of the popular starters in different auspicious parties. In Iran it is known as ‘zulabia’ in Persian and in addition to being sweetened with honey and sugar, it is also flavoured with saffron and rose water that add a royal touch. In Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Iraq,

it is known as ‘zalabia’. In Algeria and Tunisia, this sweet is known as ‘zlebia’ or ‘zlabia’. In the Maldives, it is known by the name ‘zilebi’. For a change in pronunciation, this sweet is called ‘jeri’ in Nepal. This word was derived from Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s name since it was his favourite sweetmeat.

Foreign version of jalebi.

Foreign version of jalebis are fried dough foods, including types similar to straight doughnuts. These are found in and around Iran and the Arab countries of Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Comoros and Algeria and Palestine, where it was brought by the Yemenite Jews and Iraqi Jews.

These jalebis are made by a zalbani. These are made from a batter composed of eggs, flour and milk, and then cooked in oil. Natural ingredients include flour, yeast, yoghurt and sugar or honey. This is then mixed with water and commonly two seeds of cardamom and oil are need for the crackling.
Jalebi (zalabiya) has various shapes and forms. One is ‘mushabbaka’ form. These are latticed fritters made in discs, balls and squares. They are dipped in clarified honey perfumed with rose water, musk and camphor.

A recipe from a caliph’s kitchen suggests milk, clarified butter, sugar and pepper to be added. Another form is ‘funiyya’. It is a sponge cake version cooked in a special round pot on a trivet and cooked in a tannur. They are often stick shaped. They are eaten year-round, including in expatriate communities for example – in France. They are especially popular during Ramadan celebrations.

As per the latest world food report, jalebi ranks number one among all the street food sweetmeats not only in India but also in gulf countries and South Asia.