Jalebi is an Arabian sweet that is famous for its distinct spiral shape. Though it is an Arabic dish, but it is largely popular in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The main characteristic of jalebi recipes is the use of sugar syrup known as ‘sheera’ or ‘chaashni’. This syrup provides a crystallized sugary coating to the jalebi. The chewy texture and sweet taste makes this dish quite popular among people of all age groups. A similar sweet known an ‘imaratee’ is also famous in Indian subcontinent, but it is relatively different from jalebi in shape as well as in color. Imaratee is somewhat orangish in color whereas jalebi recipe contains no added color and usually exhibits the yellow color. This popular sweet is prepared all over the India and Pakistan with little variations, but all the varieties enjoy the similar status of the ‘celebration sweet’.
The oldest reference of jalebi was cited in 13th century in a cookbook written by Muhammad Bin Hasan from Iran. In Iran, this sweet was traditionally prepared on the occasion of Ramadan to distribute among the poor. At that time it was known as ‘Zlebia’, but later the name become ‘jalebi’ as most Indian languages replace ‘z’ by ‘j’. In context of Indian cuisine, the reference of the sweet was first seen in ‘Priyamkarnrpakatha’. It is a Jain work composed in 1450 AD. So it can be assumed that the relation of this sweet with Indian Subcontinent is almost 500 years old.
Jalebi is typically prepared with gram flour batter. Lime juice or any kind of citric acid is added to give little tang to the sweet. In some of the India, this popular sweet is made with ‘chenna’. It is a by-product of cheese. Sweet taste is offered to the jalebi, by dipping the fried stuff in sugar syrup. Often kewra essence, kewra water or rose water is incorporated to the batter for authentic flavor. No added color is present in the sweet, as it imparts a true yellow color after getting done.
Jalebi is prepared with deep-frying method. The batter is prepared with pouring consistency. A special technique is used to pour the batter in the frying pan in the shape of spiral. For the technique, a cloth is used which is having a hole. The cloth is filled with batter and cook move the hand in the circular manner to pour the batter in the pan through the hole. Sugar syrup is prepared separately and cooled. The fried stuff is then dipped in the syrup and taken out immediately. The resultant product is a sweet spiral shape dish.
Jalebi is typically served as a ‘celebration sweet’ in Indian. During special occasions, such as, Independence Day and Republic Day; almost all the government offices in India distribute this sweet among their employees. In other parts of the world, this sweet is popularly eaten as sweet snack. In the form of dessert, jalebi recipe is served with ‘rabri’, another Indian sweet.
Jalebi is a sweet; hence it is considered a calorific dish. For obese and diabetic patients, this dish is not recommended. However, in Pakistan, jalebi is used to treat headaches. For this treatment, the sweet is soaked in milk and stand for sometime before eating. Jalebi with milk is also a good combination for children in order to get energy and strength.