Indian Fried Dough with Saffron Syrup (Jalebi)

Indian Fried Dough with Saffron Syrup (Jalebi)
Jalebis get their golden hue from a saffron-infused sugar syrup.Alex Testere

Similar to American funnel cake in shape and texture, jalebi is a popular Indian street food made by piping a runny, fermented batter into hot oil in a coil formation before soaking the fried "pretzels" in a sugar syrup. It's typically made with finely milled maida flour, but this version, adapted from Pushpesh Pant's India: The Cookbook, combines all-purpose flour with chickpea flour to create a similarly supple crunch. The addition of yogurt helps kick-start the dough's fermentation. Lime juice is a popular addition to the sugar syrup, but at The Ram Bhandar, a jalebi vendor in the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, owner Rajendra Gupta infuses his syrup with saffron threads to provide a floral flavor and glistening golden hue.

Equipment

Indian Fried Dough with Saffron Syrup (Jalebi)
Indian jalebis, fried to a crisp and soaked in saffron-sugar syrup, are a beloved treat in Varanasi, a riverside city in Uttar Pradesh
Yield: serves 4
Time: 12 hours, 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup chickpea flour
  • ¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of saffron threads

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the yogurt, oil, and ½ cup cold water. Cover and set aside in a warm place to ferment until the mixture is tart and slightly bubbly, at least 12 hours or overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, make the saffron syrup: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the sugar and ⅓ cup water, and cook, stirring continuously, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup begins to bubble at the edges. Turn off the heat, stir in the saffron, and cover. If frying the jalebi right away, keep warm; otherwise, leave at room temperature and reheat gently when you are ready to fry.
  3. In a deep skillet or rondeau pan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer, add enough oil to reach 1½ inches up the sides of the skillet. Preheat the oil to 350˚F over medium-high heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet or wide, heat-resistant bowl with a few layers of paper towels and set by the stove.
  4. Lightly whisk the fermented batter to a smooth consistency, then transfer to a piping bag (alternatively, transfer to a resealable plastic bag and snip a small hole in one corner). Working in batches if necessary, slowly squeeze the batter into the hot oil, making small coils about 2 inches in diameter (start from the outer ring and end at the center—the coils should be linked together in a line). Fry, using tongs to flip once halfway through, until both sides are golden and crisp, 2–3 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the jalebi to the prepared baking sheet. When all of the jalebis are fried, remove and discard the paper towels. Pour the warm syrup over the jalebi, turning a few times to coat evenly. Let soak for 5 minutes, then remove the jalebi from the syrup and serve hot, broken into individual coils.