Gulab Jamun: The quintessential Pakistani dessert
It’s March 1 and Isloo is on lockdown. Since my brain is fine tuned to waking up at 6am, I decided to make my mid-week sudden day-off as productive as possible.
I am of the firm belief that it is important to treat yourself – it’s the philosophy I follow in my cooking. However, too much of anything will not make anyone appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a dish. Hence, for me, moderation is key.
Now I am not a huge fan of desi sweets but if there are two desi delights I would pick over any cake/chocolate, one would be jalebi (and that too only the thin crispy kind) and the other is gulab jamun, the quintessential Pakistani dessert!
Gulab jamuns (translated very roughly as ‘rose-fruits’) got their name from the fact that they resemble a jamun (a subcontinent fruit) shape-wise and are usually soaked in a rosewater-scented syrup. While some say they were introduced by Central Asian Turkic invaders to the subcontinent, others claim that they were discovered accidentally by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chef.
Essentially, they are deep fried balls made of milk powder, flour, butter and cream or milk, and then soaked in sugar syrup. I know they sound terrible when I put it like that, but they are oh-so-delectable (I promise).
It’s difficult to describe something that just melts in your mouth once bitten into, something which travels through your food pipe filling it with its warmth and leaving you with a kind of satisfaction that only really good food can give.
But that is exactly how gulab jamuns make me feel. These soft pillows of syrup laden fried dough give you the kind of comfort that you feel when you are around family. Not to mention that no desi celebration is complete unless these delights are present – be it a shaadi, Eid, aunty committee parties… I could go on and on here. Heck, my mom even randomly buys them to fulfil her sweet-tooth cravings.
After many disasters and triumphs, gulab jamuns were part of my triumphal parade. Here goes…
For the dough balls:
Milk powder – 1cup (dried)
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Flour – 2 tbsp
Cream – 2 tbsp
Baking powder –1½ tsp
Egg – 1
Cardamon powder – 1 tsp
For the syrup:
Sugar – 1½ cup
Water – 1 cup
1. Sift the flour, baking powder and dried milk together. Next, add ghee, egg, cream and cardamom (Illaichi) powder.
2. Mix well and make a dough. Knead and make small one-inch balls.
3. Heat the oil on low flame and add the balls when the oil is moderately hot, still keeping it on a low flame.
4. Take out when light brown and put them into the syrup immediately. Enjoy hot or cold!
Keep in mind that the dough gets drier and heavier as it sits, and if they are heavy before cooking, they will be tough after cooking. As with pancakes, muffins, etc. you should stir gently and only until the ingredients have combined. If you work the dough too much, it will be hard.
If you are a gulab jamun aficionado and haven’t tried to make them yet, you are definitely missing out.
So if you don’t want to miss out on these heavenly pieces of fried dough, try them out today!
All photos: Arhama Siddiqa