Of course, it is known by different names depending on its country of origin, but it is generally the same form.
What is jilapi?
Jilapi or jalebi is a delicious light fritter dipped in a sugar syrup. It takes the shape of a flat circle obtained by rolling a long thin spiral of dough on itself before plunging it into boiling oil.
Traditionally, in Bangladesh, jilapi is flavored with cardamom. It owes its pretty orange-yellow color to the presence of saffron in its recipe. Jalebi is a very sweet but incredibly light fritter.
Jalebi are generally eaten warm, but some people like to eat them cold. When they are made successfully, they have a slightly chewy texture. Indeed, they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside because they are soaked in sugar syrup.
Jalebi are also known as jilapi in Bangladesh. They are very popular all over the Indian continent. They can be found in all forms and under several names, depending on the dialects and regions.
In southern India, it takes the names of jilabi or zalebi. In eastern India, it is not uncommon to find them soaked in rabri, a kind of cream made from sweetened condensed milk and spices.
Tips to make great jilapi
The main difficulty lies in making concentric spirals and controlling the oil temperature. Also, here are some tips that will be very useful to make these traditional fritters successfully.
Tip #1: Add enough oil to the pan
If there is not enough oil in the pan, the jalebi will touch the bottom and come out flat. Also, the syrup will not soak properly. The jalebi will come out crisp and hard.
Tip # 2: Frying oil must be hot enough
If the oil is not hot enough, the jalebi will soak the oil during cooking. Worse, they will be soft, fat and indigestible. On the contrary, if the oil is too hot, the jalebi will cook too quickly. They will become crunchy and it will be difficult to soak them in syrup to soften them.
To check the temperature of the oil, a grandmother’s technique consists in soaking a wooden spoon in the cooking oil after a few minutes. As soon as small bubbles appear on the surface of the wooden spoon, it means that the oil is at the right temperature.
Pastry professionals and those with a thermometer on hand can easily check that the oil reaches 320 F before frying the jilapi.
Tip #2: Use a plastic squeeze bottle to form the spirals of the jalebi
Of course, the traditional method of the funnel in India consists in pouring the fritter dough into a funnel that is sealed with the thumb. This method makes it possible to make between three and four jilapi. But for the less skilled, there are some very practical methods.
The first method is to use a disposable piping bag with a round, thin tip. A plastic bag cut at the end also does the trick. Also, there is an even more efficient method for making jilapi: the plastic squeeze bottle method.
These squeeze bottles make it possible to form regular jilapi. They are generally used for decorating biscuits with royal icing.
Simply pour the fritter dough into the plastic bottle using a funnel and close tightly before forming jilapi in the pan.
In order to obtain more dense jalebi, simply cut the tip of the plastic bottle with scissors.
What are the variants of jilapi?
Kerala jalebi come in the form of a flower wrapped around itself. They are much denser and thicker than traditional jalebi.
Zalābiya mushabbaka are variants of jalebi. They come in the form of small balls or discs. Here, traditional sugar syrup is replaced by clarified honey flavored with rose water, musk and camphor. Some recipes also mention milk in the fritter dough.
Zalābiya funiyya are a version of jalebi cooked in an oven called tannur. They differ from jalebi in their shape because they come in the form of thick sticks. They are prepared all year round.
Jalebi around the world
In the Middle East, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, people enjoy zalabieh.
In Iran, people savor zulbia or zoolbia. Also in Iran, zulbia can sometimes take the form of short sticks: they are then called bamieh.
In Egypt, jalebi are known as meshabbek.
Further on, in Somalia, they take the name of mushabbak.
But the term zalabia is also known in these countries. The only difference is the shape of these fritters, which often come in the form of small balls of fried dough.
Jilapi (jalebi or zalabia) is a traditional fried sweet pastry from the Indian continent, that is also popular in the Middle East and North Africa.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons rice flour (or chickpea flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup yogurt
- 1 cup warm water (about)
- A few threads of saffron
- 2 pinches cardamom
- 1 cup water
- 1¾ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- A few cardamom seeds
- A few threads of saffron
- Mix flour and baking powder.
- Then add all remaining ingredients.
- The texture of the dough should be close to a very thick crepe batter. Adjusting the quantity of water accordingly.
- Let stand 6 hours at room temperature.
Using a pastry bag with small tip or a plastic squeeze bottle, fry the jalebi in a spiral shape in hot oil.
- Put the water, cardamom, saffron and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil until the syrup begins to thicken.
- Remove from heat.
- While stirring, pour the lemon juice, honey and rose water.
- Immediately return to the heat and boil again, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat at the first signs of boiling. Let cool.
- Soak the jilapi generously in the syrup.