Know How Jalebi Became India’s National Sweet Dish

Jalebi, the national sweet of India always makes everyone’s mouth watery.

Not many sweetmeats around the world have had the fortune of being such a phenomenon. Jalebi has fans in all of us.

Whether eaten with the humble breakfast of poori-sabzi or the evening snack of Samosa and chai, consumed alone, in milk, or with curd, jalebi can be enjoyed hot, cold or even daylong stale.

Many scholars argue that jalebi came to India along with the Turkish and Persian traders.

Zalabiya (Arabic) or Zolabiya/zalibiya (Persian) as they call it was popular in Iran during the Iftar gatherings of Ramazan and Nowruz (Persian New Year).

One of the earliest mentions of zalabiya was recorded in the tenth century (for some scholars it is thirteenth century) cookbook, Kitab al-Tabeekh written by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi, who documented all the dishes of the time including the foods served to the caliph.

In India, jalebi became the local pronunciation of zalabiya, which by the fifteenth century was a part of most feasts and festivals.

The fifteenth-century scripture, Priyamkarnrpakatha by Jain author Jinasura mentions how jalebi was popular in the gatherings of wealthy merchants. Another Sanskrit text, Gunyagunabodhini of the seventeenth century lists the ingredients and recipe for making the sweetmeat, which is quite similar to its present-day preparation.

Some of the ancient Indian texts mention it as jalavallika (sweet with syrup) or kundalika, a common dish served during weddings or other celebrations. Keeping the traditions alive, today many temples in India distribute jalebi as prasadam (food offering to a god).

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