This sweet is called "jeri" in Nepal, a word derived from jangiri. Here in Bengal, it is known as Jilipi and it is generally served with Samosa to guests. It is prepared by deep-frying batter in circular shapes, which are soaked in syrup and served warm or cold.
A similar sweet is Imarti, which is red-orange in color and sweeter in taste, made in North Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. A variant is Chhena Jalebi (Chhanar Jilip), prepared with chhena (cottage cheese). It is popular in Rajasthan, Bengal and Orissa.
As far as I remember, making of jalebis was a pretty mysterious procedure for me during the childhood. I used to accompany my mother during the Rath Yatra Melas, held near our house. The man, responsible for making this mouth watering sweet, used to take some amount of batter in a polished cocunut shell (halved), prick the bottom of the shell swiftly and start making circles in the hot oil with a steady hand. It was a fascinating sight, the perfect small circles filling the whole kadhai in just few seconds. The person will immediately turn the jalebis, take them out and release them in sugar syrup. The jalebis were served in shaal leaves, folded in a cone. We used to rush back home with the dripping jalebis to be relished with papads and tea.
Another memory of this jalebi is from my maternal grandparent's place in Bihar. We used to visit them during Durga Pujas and the house was very close to the station. As we unboarded the train, we used see that the order being placed to the Halwai for special jalebis. The jalebis there were very thin and deeply fried to have a typical brown colour with a crunchy taste.
I have prepared Jalebi before but with a ready made pack and had no idea of the recipe proportions. The recipe calls for simple ingredients like flour, yougurt and cornstarch. The trick is to ferment the batter overnight and have the right consistency while preparing the jalebis.
I followed the recipe but added a little bit of saunf (fennel seeds) and a little crushed black pepper (gol morich in Bengali) in the Jalebi batter and green cardamom (chhoti elaichi) in the sugar syrup.
- All purpose flour / Maida: 100 gms
- Curd / Yogurt: 1 cup
- Cornstarch: 30 gms
- Lime Juice: 1 tsp
- Fennel Seeds / Saunf: 1 tbsp
- Black pepper, crushed: ½ tsp
- Hot oil: 1 tbsp
- Green Cardamom / Chhoti Elaichi, split: 1-2
- Saffron color: a pinch
- Sugar: 1 cup
- Water: ½ cup
- Ghee / White Oil for deep frying
- Kewra Water / Rose Water (optional): 1 tbsp
To make the Batter:
- In a bowl, take all the ingredients (flour, curd, cornstarch, lime juice, fennel seeds, crushed black pepper, saffron color and 1 tbsp hot oil) and whisk together to make a thick and smooth batter.
- Set aside to ferment overnight. Whisk thoroughly before use.
To make the Sugar Syrup:
- Take a deep bottomed pan, combine sugar with water and heat till all the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil till the syrup reaches one thread consistency (To check consistency, carefully dip the tip of your index finger into the syrup, touch your finger and thumb together and genly try to release apart. If one thread is formed between your finger and thumb the syrup is done).
- Just before the syrup is ready, add green cardamom and kewra / rose water. Keep warm.
To press out the jalebi:
- Heat the oil in a deep kadhai and reduce flame to medium. To test for the right temperature, drop a small amount of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the top of the oil, the oil is ready.
- Pour batter into a piping bag / zip-top bag with one corner snipped off or a ketchup bottle.
- Pipe batter into the hot oil in clockwise direction in a steady stream to make a circle.
- Deep fry them until they are pale golden and crisp all over (be careful not to fry too much or else they will turn brown). Make a few at a time.
- Drain jalebis from the kadhai and immerse them in the warm sugar syrup. Leave them for 4-5 mins so that they soak the syrup.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and serve warm with malai or ice-cream or relish as it is.