How The Gulab Jamun Came To India

Gulab Jamun is one of the most popular Indian desserts. But did you know that the older recipe for making the gulab jamun was first invented in Persia? It was perfected over time due to the influence of the royal cooks in the Mughal kitchens until it took its current form. let’s explore the interesting story behind how the Persians gave us the blueprint for this delicious dessert.

The name Gulab jamun translates to “rose berries”.  The sugar syrup they are soaked in is scented with rose petals, and the fried balls are identical to the jamun fruit. Gulab jamun is said to have originated in northern India during the time of the Mughal rulers. At the time, the chefs who ran the Mughal emperor’s kitchen were said to have developed this sweet dish. The Mughals were known to delight in the good life - lovers of art, music and food, they patronized the gulab jamun in a big way and introduced it to their fellow nobles, who began serving it at festive occasions. The prestige associated with the dish saw it gain wide acceptance. 

Interestingly though, the gulab jamun was also said to have been invented by the Persians for celebrating auspicious occasions. The gulab jamun we now know is quite similar to the Persian bamieh and the Turkish tulumba. They are both fluffy balls of unleavened dough deep fried and soaked in a sugar syrup. The Mughals in India had a deep admiration for Persian and Turkish cultures. Some experts claim that similar Persian and Turkish desserts may have inspired the Mughal cooks in India to create the gulab jamun. 

How to Make Gulab Jamun at Home?

The best thing about a gulab jamun is its simplicity. It’s surprising how such a tasty dish is so easy to make at home in a just few steps:

Make the dough

  • Add one cup of khoya or mawa, ¾ cup (100 gm) of grated paneer and 2 tablespoons of semolina (rava) to it.
  •  Add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour (maida), ¼ teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder to the khoya mixture in the bowl.
  • Mash the mixture well so there are no lumps in it.
  • Add 1 tablespoon milk to the mixture and knead lightly to form a dough. If it’s not forming into a dough, add a few more tablespoons of milk. 
  • After 30 minutes make small balls of the dough without any cracks and keep aside.

Make the sugar syrup

  • Take 1 cup of water in a pan and add 250 grams of sugar.
  • Heat the pan on a medium-low flame. Once the syrup turns sticky and thick, turn it off.
  • Add a few drops of rose water to the mixture and set aside.
  • In case the syrup crystallizes, you can a little water and heat it again to form a syrup.

Frying the Gulab Jamuns

  • Heat some oil in a wok until medium-hot, then add the dough one at a time and fry.
  • In case the balls of dough are breaking apart, you can add some maida and fry them.
  • Keep turning the dough while frying. When they turn golden brown in colour, remove them from the wok and keep aside to drain out the excess oil.

Soak Jamun in Sugar Syrup

  • Place the Gulab jamuns in the sugar syrup in a pan and heat on a low flame for 2-3 minutes. 
  • It will swell up in size as the heat helps it absorb the sugar syrup.
  • Remove them after a few minutes.
  • Serve the fresh Gulab Jamun hot, or cold, as per your preference. 

Variations in Gulab Jamun

Gulab jamuns are simple to make and people make their own variations by adding different kinds of dry fruits and nuts. You can add almonds, cashews, pistachios, raisins, and so on. You can also add cardamom, dry fruit powder, or vanilla essence to give it your own twist. These days, ready-made Gulab jamun mixes are available everywhere, as well as tins of pre-packaged Gulab jamuns. These are especially helpful for working people and Indians staying abroad who miss the taste of a good old Gulab jamun.