Jalebi: Tracing The Path Of Sweet Dish From Persia To India

Jalebi, one of the most beloved delectables in India, can be bought from any sweet shop, especially in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Gujarat. The crunchy sweet is prepared by deep frying an all-purpose flour batter and dipping the round jalebi into sugar syrup. It is often paired with curd or topped with rabri. 

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If you are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, or Madhya Pradesh, you can tell the craze for jalebi among locals. People eat them for breakfast or as a snack during tea time. Kachori, samosa, and dahi-jalebi are among staple breakfast options in these states and sweet shops that offer this combo witness long queues of foodies lining up to get a fresh batch packed to enjoy it at home. 

The spiral dessert is famous for leaving people in a food coma. Many stalls serve them hot and crispy to customers waiting to get transported into the world of sugary delights. Reportedly, jalebi is a variation of zulbiya, a sweet dish that originated in Persia. 

Journey Of Jalebi From Persia To IndiaThe descriptions of zulbiya are found in Kitab al-Tabeekh, a 10th-century cookbook compiled by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi. Its first mention indicates that the dish was served during Ramadan and other festivities. Zulbiya is still quite popular in Iran. It looks a bit asymmetric and dipped in a mixture of rose water and honey. 

Food historian K.T. Achaya mentioned jalebi as a corrupted version of Persian zalbiya, which is why he thinks that the sweet dish travelled to India quite early. It is believed that Persian invaders, artisans, and traders brought the recipe of zulbiya to India. Soon it became popular and jalebi came into existence. A 1450 CE text mentions that jalebi was an integral part of Indian festivities. A 1600 CE Sanskrit text mentions a recipe for a sweet dish that shares an uncanny resemblance to the present-day art of making jalebi. 

Variations Of Jalebi In IndiaIn present India, jalebi exists in various forms. In West Bengal, it is referred to as chhanar jilipi, while in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, it is called jaleba. In Andhra Pradesh, a variant of jalebi is called imarti, and Hyderabad has khowa jalebi variant that is popular among locals and tourists.

One of the easiest and most common recipes for making jalebi includes preparing batter comprising turmeric powder, all-purpose flour, water, gram flour, and baking soda. It is further added into a ketchup bottle or muslin cloth with a whole. The batter is poured into circles in a kadhai of hot oil. Once jalebi is golden brown, it is added to the sugar syrup and served to customers.