Gulab Jamun is probably the most famous Indian dessert. It reminds me a lot of Luqaimat from Arabic cuisine in terms of size, shape, colour, and texture.
The dish was first prepared in medieval India, derived from a fritter that Persian invaders brought to India. It is made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk. In India, milk solids are prepared by heating milk over a low flame for a long time until most of the water content has evaporated. These milk solids are kneaded into a dough, sometimes with a pinch of flour, and then shaped into small balls and deep fried at a low temperature of about 148 °C. The balls are then soaked in a light sugar syrup flavoured with green cardamom or saffron.
Why do I like Gulab Jamun?
- The bite-size balls are often piping hot with a melt-in-the-mouth feel.
- They are also very filling, as 2 or 3 are equivalent to eating a few sponge cakes from western cuisine
- The long history of gulab jamun makes it almost like eating India’s national dessert
I was lucky enough to eat some gulab jamun during my time in Delhi, although it is not easy to find outside of India (maybe I’ve just not been looking in the right places). As I mentioned before, gulab jamun reminds me of Luqaimat from the Arab World where these sugary and syrupy dough balls are intended as a wholesome dessert after mealtime. Especially the gulab jamun is also found on night markets and street food stalls across Delhi. However, in contrast to how we eat it now, the dessert has a rich history of being served to Mughal emperors of old as part of state meals, or even as dirty treats!
Head over to Manjula’s Kitchen for a recipe and step by step guide to make your own Gulab Jamun!
These days, gulab jamun mix is also commercially available. Homemade Gulab jamun is usually made up of powdered milk, a pinch of flour, baking powder and clarified butter that is all kneaded to form a dough, then moulded into balls, deep fried and dropped into simmering sugar syrup. This dessert is often served at weddings and birthday parties. I don’t think there is a more popular dessert in Indian cuisine than gulab jamun, although lassi and kulfi are also very popular.