Hi friends! We have a really fun dish for “Y’all Come Eat Now” this week. When I first started hitting up my friends and family with cooking session requests, my friend Julie was very quick to reach out to her mom to get the details on a dessert that her family made on Christmas Eve. when she was growing up. In the initial email Julie described them simply as “funnel cakes covered in syrup”, um, funnel cakes at home?! I was definitely intrigued. This also was definitely a sharp left turn outside of my cooking comfort zone. I’ve never actually fried any food before. My parent’s owned a deep fryer but I hated the way that it made the house smell so I let the fine people at Popeye’s do their thing. I was willing to test the waters (or should I say oil) in order to try this dish. This was also my first time working with yeast. I was very excited to learn this dish!
So you may be asking what the heck jalebi are. Jalebi are small, deep-fried sweets common in India and Pakistan that are soaked in sugar syrup. Julie’s mom gave us a little insight on the origins of the version that their family makes:
“I learned to make them from the TA of the Persian class I took in college; Iranians call them zulbia and they have a slightly different flavor from the Indian jalebis. The Iranian ones are not quite as heavy. So what we were making was more Iranian, but we called them jalebis because that was familiar to Riggses. Also, the honey syrup was kind of adapted and made up, not completely right for either culture, but they were still good.”
Julie informed us as to exactly how her family began making jalebis which I found fascinating. Both her mom and dad came from very well-traveled families that lived in other countries while they were growing up. Her mom lived in Chile until she was 12 and moved to Wisconsin and Julie’s dad lived in India until college, where he grew up eating jalebis. It is only natural that they would adopt a variety of traditions along the way.
The actual recipe is very easy. There is some wait time for the dough to proof. This is a great time to order some Indian takeaway, pick it up, pour a few glasses of wine, and stuff your gullet full of Chicken Tikka Masala. I’m not saying that is what we did but it’s a damn good idea…this is definitely what we did.
Dough- ½ tsp dry yeast, add 1 cup lukewarm water, add flour until consistency of yogurt, cover with a dish towel and let sit for 3 hours; spoon into a squeeze bottle when ready to fry
The Riggses have learned over time that a honey bear works best. I learned that it’s the cutest bottle to repurpose!
Syrup- heat 1 part sugar and water to create simple syrup add honey and stir
Fry- heat oil (canola or other non-flavorful oil) in a skillet
Now that you have everything made and ready to rock this is when the fun starts! This dish is very interactive. It’s the first time that I’ve been in the kitchen with four people all taking turns in the kitchen and didn’t feel overwhelmed.
- You squeeze the dough into the hot oil and can attempt to make designs similar to funnel cakes or go fancy like butterflies or flowers like in the restaurants. You let it cook for 30-60 seconds until it becomes a light golden brown then flip it. Don’t splash!!
- Pull the fried jalebi out of the oil and dunk directly into the syrup and using a fork that is being used for syrup only, fully submerge the jalebi for just a few seconds. You do not want it to get too soggy. TJ quickly became the jalebi syrup expert.
- Place jalebi on a plate with some paper towels to cool and allow the syrup to harden a bit. It will not flake off like a glazed donut but you don’t want it to be too sticky either.
- NOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM while still warm.
Julie shows us how it’s done!
I required additional supervision
I wasn’t scared at all to work with hot oil, nope not at all…
I made jalebi nuggets…don’t do that
This is my “Oh my god, it’s still sizzling! What do I do?!” face
Chris & TJ got in on the fun too!
TJ was instantly a skilled syrup soaker!
These steps happened VERY VERY quickly. A few tips to make this go as smoothly as possible is to have multiple paper towels or dishes to place your scooper for the oil on while you use a syrup only utensil for dunking and plating. I wanted to use the same utensil for the oil and the syrup which would have ruined the syrup but also made a horrifying sizzling noise. I was still scarred, more so mentally than physically, from my first big kitchen wound earlier in the week. So that was a little overwhelming. So having prepped stations for each stage before you start will go a long way.
I highly recommend making this dish. It was very hands on and fun. Not many recipes get everyone in the kitchen working together like this recipe did. I can certainly see why this was a great Christmas Eve tradition for Julie’s family. Thank you to Chris and Julie for having us over and to Julie for sharing this recipe with us. We had a great time recreating it with you and watching you as the memories started coming back to you as we cooked.