Next to any busy marketplace, roadside or a village carnival in Bangladesh, Pakistan or India and you’ll see people in little stalls making fresh hot Jilebi. They are a little like funnel cakes but more delicate and crispy. There’s nothing like eating hot Jilebis. It’s better than hot Krispy Kremes! They melt in your mouth in a little explosion of sweetness and crunchiness. Of course, you can also buy them at fancier establishments, restaurants or sweet shoppes, but the road side ones are the best. I miss that here. Sometimes when the nostalgia gets to be too much, I just make my own. We were invited to dinner at a friend’s house. I offered to bring dessert just so I could have an excuse to make Jilebis. The problem was that I ate quite a few of them even as I was making them. I finally had to stop so I’d have enough to take to the dinner.
It took me a while to get all the proportions right and to figure out what tool to use to actually expel my batter into the oil to make the jilebi shapes. It also took a lot of trial and error to make them taste like the roadside Jilebis. I think I finally got it. You try it out and let me know.
Here’s the recipe:
1/2 cup all purpose flour (maida)
1-2 tsp of chick pea flour (Besan)
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 cup of warm water
oil for frying
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 crushed cardamom pods
3-4 strands of saffron (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice (to keep it from crystallizing)
Assemble the Jilebi:
In a small bowl add the water, sugar and yeast and let it sit for about 3-5 minutes until it’s all foamy and bubbly. In a separate bowl, mix the two flours and the oil. Slowly add in the proofed yeast while stirring the flour mixture until it’s smooth. Consistency should be like a pancake batter. Make sure there are no lumps. Let it sit covered for about 1 hour.
Make the syrup:
Before getting the batter ready for frying, assemble all the ingredients for the syrup and bring to a boil. Turn it to the lowest setting and let it simmer for about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat.
Making the Jilebi (this goes fast so have everything ready to go):
Preheat oil. Test readiness by putting a little of the jilebi mixture in the oil and if it floats to the top right away it’s ready. Make sure not to overheat the oil. Pour the jilebi mixture into a squeeze bottle or a ziplock bag with a tip cut out to make a small hole. The mixture will be slightly stringy and elastic. If using a squeeze bottle from a baking store, try the Wilton decorating tip number seven. It’s the perfect size hole plus the bottle and tip only cost about $2 and you can use the bottle for tons of different things. Using a circular motion and even pressure put batter into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and set it over some paper towels to absorb excess oil. While jilebi is still hot put it in the warm syrup to coat both sides and take it out immediately. Best served hot. But if you must have some later (if there is any left), please heat in the oven and not the microwave so it retains the crispy texture.