India’s Famous Festive Sweetmeat “Jalebi” Journey Doesn’t Begin in India: History of Jalebi
GUWAHATI: Festivals in India are a celebration of unity in the midst of diversity. Amazingly, each community celebrates the festival in its own way, but one thing remains constant: delicious foods.
In every festive season, a delicacy that ranks first among all food delights is Jalebis. Simply hearing the word makes you want to eat it. Jalebi, with its crisp, orange and coiled shape has mesmerized us all at some point in our lives.
Do you know that the Jalebi, which you see in all of your town’s halwai ki dukan, is actually not Indian food! Shocked? Yes, you read that correctly. Unfortunately, our crispy, hot, and sweet jalebi is not of Indian origin.
In the 13th century by a prominent writer of the time, Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi, who featured all the meals of the time in a cookbook titled, ‘Kitab al-Tabeekh,’ and jalebi was first listed as “Zolabiya” or “Zalabiya” with its origin in West Asia or a Persian import.
Zalabiya was a festive dessert in Iran that was loved by all, especially during the Ramzaan iftaar celebrations.
Zalabiya was introduced to Indian cooking and became a vital part of Indian cuisine with the onslaught of Turkish and Persian traders and artisans on the India shores in the mediaeval period.
Jalebi, a local pronunciation of Zaalabia, became the name for the sweetmeat. By the 15th century, Jalebi had established itself as a staple of festive celebrations, weddings, and even temple food.
In India, it’s usually made using all-purpose flour, but it’s also prepared with rice flour, wheat flour, semolina and besan in some places.
The spiral formed dish is produced with a batter of all purpose flour (maida), cardamom powder, and kesar, and is generally consumed in Asian nations. It has a history of more than 500 years.
The thick batter is squeezed into spiral shapes in a wok filled with refined oil or ghee using a muslin cloth cone with a tiny hole at the end. The spiral shapes are deep fried till golden brown, then soaked in sugar syrup and served with a dollop of cool rabri.
The Indian variant of the meal, Jalebi, has been popular in Northern India for centuries, whereas it is generally called Jilebi in Southern India.
Whether it’s the Bengali Jilapi served at a Rathayatra country fair or the Gujarati jalebi eaten with Fafda on Dusshera, jalebi has become inextricably linked to India’s gourmet demographics.
The heavyweight Jaleba from the night markets of Indore, the Chhanar Jilipi from the kitchens of Bengal’s esteemed sweetmakers, the Mawa jalebi of Madhya Pradesh or its doppelganger Khowa jalebi of Hyderabad or even the Imarti or Jhangiri of Andhra Pradesh, named after the Mughal emperor Jahangir are now popular across the country’s mainland.
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