Jalebi also known as “Zulbia“, is a sweet that sees a lot of love across countries in South Asia and West Asia. It is particularly popular in the Indian subcontinent where each state has its own variation. Even the names vary by region – jilapi in Bengal, jeri in Nepal, etc.
Not easy to prepare, it is typically made by deep-frying (maida) flour batter, in pretzel or circular shapes. This is then soaked in a sugar syrup flavoured with cardamom and saffron. The sweetness and flavours of the jalebi may vary depending on the consistency and flavours of this syrup. Served warm or cold, sometimes with equally delicious accompaniments, it makes for a perfect winter dessert.
Though the jalebi family originally migrated from Persia, some are native Indian as well, being an integral part of festivals, marriages and other important functions.
Here is a list of different varieties of jalebi, served all across the country.
The typical thin crust Jalebi that is most common, and most-loved, originated in India. Made with all-purpose flour (maida), the batter is usually fermented with yogurt overnight, to make it tastier. Fried in hot oil and then dipped in sugar syrup, jalebis are best had hot and crunchy as it loses its crunch and becomes soft if left for too long.
Jaleba is Jalebi’s well-built, overweight cousin. Just kidding, but depending on thickness, a king-size jalebi that is fat and juicy is affectionately called a Jaleba. It typically weighs 250 grams or more, but can be prepared up to 500 grams as well and is often fried in pure desi ghee. It is served hot off the girdle, after being soaked in a saffron-flavoured sugar syrup. It is very popular in North India.
Jangiri/Jangri is Jalebi’s cousin who settled in South India. A famous sweet southwards of the Vindhyas, it appears similar to the jalebi but has its own very distinct personality. The difference comes from the way jangiri is prepared. It is made with ground urad dal which makes it a tad healthier. A good Jangiri is a lot more soft and chewy as compared to jalebi.
Imarti is another of Jalebi’s cousins, and is mostly found in the north. Thicker and juicier than its cousin, Imarti has a very prominent flower-like shape and a distinct preparation method. It is made using urad dal, cornflour and saffron and then dipped into a flavourfully prepared sweet sugar syrup with green cardamom powder, imarti is traditionally best served cold.
Paneer Jalebi or Chanar Jilapi is the cousin who settled in the east, either Bengal or Odisha. A fried dessert it is made with fresh paneer made of full fat cow milk. Chanar Jilapi is browner than its North-Indian cousin and also tastes very different.
Rabdi Jalebi deserves a separate mention in this family because it is considered as the most sought-after dessert. Jalebis, fried in hot oil and dipped in sugar syrup, are served with rabdi (a sweet, condensed-milk-based dish) with saffron and almonds as its topping. Warm rabdi jalebis during winters, come highly recommended. In fact, hot jalebis are also served dipped in milk during the winters and are often included in marriages as a special dessert.