Whenever a foreigner enters a new land, he is met with different spectrum of emotions. Ranging from scepticism, distrust and many other negative gamut of emotions, these feelings, many times leaves a person feeling bitter and sorry for the experience. However, the foreigner who is the subject of today’s discussion, was welcomed wholeheartedly by the people of the new lands, where it left a literally sweet feeling, with people asking for more. Yes, the focus of discussion in this topic is a sweet, which though not originally from India, but has gained so much popularity, that many people believe that it deserves place as the national sweet of India.
Indians love Jalebi, which may be the most easily available sweet in India, and is now also available internationally, thanks to the customs and culinary skills practiced by the Indian diaspora worldwide. However, very few people know the fact, that Jalebi as a sweet did not actually originate in India, but was brought by people from the middle east to the country, many centuries back.
The sweet originated many centuries back in Iran, where it was called – Zulabiya. Kitab al Tabeekh (meaning – The Book of Dishes), was a very famous cookbook, written in 1226 AD by Muhammad bin Hasan al – Baghdadi, who described the recipe for making the sweet. In medieval India, as the adminstration of the land changed from native hands to those who had come from west Asia; many social, cultural, food habits got altered by the influence of the new comers. Wide spread local acceptance of many west Asian foods including – Jalebi, soon took place. This change was quite obvious from the fact that – Priyamkarnrpakatha, a very famous work, written around 1450 AD, by the famous Jain author Jinasura, describes the sweet as an important part of feast, hosted by the rich merchants of the time.
After saying so much about the sweet it would rather be unfair, to not talk about the recipe. Everybody in this world should get an opportunity to eat what they love, even if the nearby confectioner does not sell the Asian sweet, concerned. So, for those who want to try the Indian Jalebi at home, here is the recipe.
Mix water with Maida, as per requirement and make a smooth batter. The consistency should be like toothpaste. In simpler terms it should neither be too thick nor too thin. Now the Orange food colour and hydro powder is mixed to the mixture, and mixed thoroughly. Once that has been done, it should be kept aside for use later on.
Now 1 cup of water is taken in a metallic container and put on an oven in medium flame. When it starts boiling, 200 grams (2cups) of sugar are added to it and stir continuously, till a (1 string) sweet syrup is formed. Then the container is removed from the oven and allowed to cool. The oil previously mentioned is taken in a metallic container, and put on an oven, where it is gets warm.
Now the previously prepared flour mixture is again taken, and a pinch of soda and salt is added to the mixture. A cooking utensil containing the oil (previously mentioned in the ingredients), is put in an oven and warmed. Now the mixture prepared previously is put in the previously mentioned muslin cloth, with small hole in the centre (the cloth should be absolutely clean to prevent infection) and the top of the sac is held in-between fingers of the clenched wrist, and pressed in such a manner, that the mixture comes out in a small amount from the central hole. The same goal can be achieved by putting the mixture in small compressible plastic bottle, with a hole in the end (or pipen bag can also be used); from where the mixture can come out in small amount, when the bottle is pressed.
Now the cloth sac or the compressible plastic bottle containing the mixture/paste, is moved in swirling motion (while pressing it), so that the paste falls into the container having the hot oil, in a circular manner, with constantly increasing circumference. As the mixture falls in contact with the hot oil, the contents get fried. When this frying is complete (as evident by golden brown colour), the jalebi is turned over, so the other side also gets fried adequately. Later the fried Jalebi is shifted to the container, having the sugar syrup. After ½ minutes of contact, with this syrup, this jalebi is shifted to a clean plate, where it is ready for consumption.
Besides the Indian Subcontinent (including all the provinces/states of India), Jalebi is also a favoured sweet in many other countries of Asia and Africa, including – Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iran, Philippines, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Ethiopia. Although the name of the concerned sweet in these countries, do vary from one place to another (depending on the language) as does some minor details in the procedure of preparation & ingredients concerned, but at the end of the day the basic sweet is Jalebi, which by any other name is just as sweet.
The sweet which originated from the middle east is now truly a global favourite. If only people were as tolerant to other people’s culture, religion and ethnicities; as their food, the world would have been certainly become a much better place to live.