Journey of the Jovial Jalebi
The song of the perfect crunch you taste when the golden swirls disintegrate on your palate, bursting flavours of saffron and sugar, dissolving ever so slowly.
Jalebi, it shouts happiness and it transports you back to your childhood at the very sight of its sunny colours. The smell of freshly made Jalebis fills you up with those memories of festivities, celebrations and guilty pleasures!
Jalebi has been a local delicacy in almost every part of India. But however did anyone ever come up with this brilliant idea of frying batter in a spiral shape and soaking it into sugary syrup?
What if we told you our local mithaiwala definitely didn’t come up with it?Of course he didn’t!
What if we told you Jalebi, our dear Jalebi is not even Indian?
Read on to find out this interesting journey Jalebi made to steal our hearts forever.
A sweet start…
The word ‘Jalebi’, if you can believe it, comes from the Persian word, ‘Zalibiya’. Yup! It was first made in a middle-eastern country. Still don’t believe us?
Well, we have proof!
A 10th century cookbook has been found to contain several recipes for ‘Zalibiya’. It was a sweet, traditionally given to the poor on Ramadan. In fact, many countries like Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon flaunt similar versions of Jalebi. So it’s safe to say that Jalebi did originate in the Middle East!
Your favourite dessert goes by different names in the world…
Along with ‘Zalibiya’, Jalebi is also known as ‘Surabaya’ in Arabic. In Nepal, these magnificent treats are called ‘jeri’, derived from the word ‘Jahangir’. In West Asian countries it is referred to by ‘jilipi’, ‘jilbi’, ‘zelapi’ and ‘imarti’. Who knew Jalebi had travelled more than a hippie backpacker!
Jalebi swirls in many ways…
Just like its varied names, different versions of Jalebi are spread throughout these countries. Think of Jalebi but in the shape of a finger, or imagine the texture of the sweet swirls dipped in curd or rabri. The ingredients vary as well. In certain countries, it is prepared with the batter constituting rice flour and urad dal whereas in others, with wheat flour and besan.
Jalebis have been served on mainly happy occasions in all these countries. It is a blessed indulgence that fills you with its sugary melody. It is no wonder that although foreign, Jalebi has become so popular here that it is considered Indian through and through. Not just abroad, in India itself, Jalebis have their own versions such as the Chennar Jalebi from Kolkata and the Gheeyar made in the North.
As to when our dear Jalebi travelled all the way to India is still unclear. Some say, it was at least 500 years ago that Jalebi was found to have been prepared in the Indian subcontinent. A few works such as the “Priyamkarnrpakatha” by Jinasura, written in the mid-15th century and ‘Gunyagunabodhini’ dated before AD 1600 clearly mention a sweet dish, its ingredients and the method of preparation which uncannily resembles the Jalebi that we eat today.
It was mostly brought in India by the Persian-speaking marauders or as a part of the Muslim trade and spread throughout the country as one of the most popular confectionery.
Just like in India, Jalebis and its varied versions can be found stacked up in a restaurant in Tunisia or at a dinner table during Hanukkah in Israel.
We, at Chitale Bandhu are so grateful for this wonderful migration of Jalebi in all these countries and we can only hope that more and more people have the opportunity to relish our much loved delight and create unforgettable memories with it.