Jalebis as served in India
Alternative names Jilbi, Jilipi, Jhilapi, Jilapi (Odia and Bengali), Zelapi, Jilapir Pakistan, Jilebi (India), Jilabi (Marathi), Jilawii, Zelepi (Assamese), Zilafi (Sylheti), Zoolbia (Middle East), Zalobai (Pashto), Jeri (Nepal), Z'labia (Tunisia), Mushabakh (Ethiopia), Pani Walalu (Sri Lanka)
Course Dessert
Region or state South Asia, West Asia, North Africa, East Africa
Serving temperature Hot or cold
Main ingredients Maida flour, saffron, ghee, sugar
Variations Jahangiri or Imarti
Cookbook: Jalebi  Media: Jalebi

Jalebi, also known as zulbia and zalabia, is a sweet popular food in some parts of South Asia, West Asia, North Africa, and East Africa. It is made by deep-frying maida flour (plain flour or all-purpose flour) batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup. They are particularly popular in the Indian subcontinent and Iran.

This dessert can be served warm or cold. They have a somewhat chewy texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating. Citric acid or lime juice is sometimes added to the syrup, as well as rose water. Jalebi is eaten with curd or rabri (North India) along with optional other flavours such as kewra (scented water).

This dish is not to be confused with similar sweets and variants like imarti and chhena jalebi.


Names for the dish include Hindi: जलेबी; Nepali: जेरी (Jeri), Sanskrit: सुधा-कुण्डलिका, Marathi: जिलबी Bengali: জিলাপি; Assamese: জেলেপী (zelepi); Gujarati: જલેબી; Kannada: ಜಿಲೇಬಿ; Malayalam: ജിലേബി; Odia: ଝିଲାପି; Punjabi: ਜਲੇਬੀ; Tamil: தேன் குழல்; Telugu: జిలేబి; Sinhala: පැණි වළලු; Sylheti ꠎꠤꠟꠣꠚꠤ Zilafi; Sindhi: جلیبی; Urdu: جلیبی; Azerbaijani: zülbiyə (South Azerbaijani: زۆلبیه); Pashto: ځلوبۍ źəlobəi; Persian: زولبیا zolbia; Lurish: زلهیبی zuleybi; Arabic: zalābiyah or zalebi; Somali: Mushabbak, Egyptian Arabic: مِشَبٍك Meshabek, Tunisian Arabic: Zlebia); Tagalog: Jalebie; Harari language: ሙሻበኽ Mushabakh.


Jalebi is believed to be derived from a similar dish of West Asia. According to Hobson-Jobson, the word jalebi is derived from the Arabic word zulabiya or the Persian zolbiya, the name for a similar dish.[1] In Christian communities in West Asia, it is served on the Feast of the Theophany (Epiphany), often with dry sugar and cinnamon or confectioners sugar. In Iran, where it is known as zolbiya, the sweet was traditionally given to the poor during Ramadan. A 10th century cookbook gives several recipes for zulubiya. There are several 13th century recipes of the sweet, the most accepted being mentioned in a cookbook by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi.[2]

The dish was brought to Medieval India by Persian-speaking Turkic invaders.[3] In 15th century India, jalebi was known as Kundalika or Jalavallika.[4]:262 Priyamkarnrpakatha, a work by the Jain author Jinasura, composed around 1450 CE, mentions jalebi in the context of a dinner held by a rich merchant.[2][4]:37 Gunyagunabodhini, another Sanskrit work dating before 1600 CE, lists the ingredients and recipe of the dish; these are identical to the ones used to prepare the modern jalebi.[5]

Ernest A Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant to the United States, is believed to have used the Persian version zalabia as an early ice cream cone.[2]:404

Geographic distribution

In Iran it is known as zolbia (زولبیا) in Persian and in addition to being sweetened with honey and sugar is also flavoured with saffron and rose water.

In the Indian subcontinent, it is known as "Jalebi" in Hindustani and served with sweetened condensed milk dish, rabri or eaten with kachori and vegetable curry in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.

In the Levant and other Middle Eastern countries, it is known as "zalabia" (زلابية) (sometimes spelt "zalabiya").[6] In the Maldives, it is known by the name "zilēbi".

This sweet is called "jeri" in Nepal, a word derived from Jangiri and the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.[7]

In Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, this sweet is known as zlebia or zlabia.

Zlebia (Maghreb)

Zlebia or zlabia (Maghrebi Arabic: زلابية) is a type of pastry eaten in parts of Northwest Africa, such as Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

Natural ingredients include flour, yeast, yoghurt, and sugar or honey. This is then mixed with water and commonly two seeds of cardamom (oil for the crackling).


Zalābiya are fried dough foods, including types similar to straight doughnuts. These are found in and around Iran and the Arab countries of Yemen, Egypt,[8] Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Comoros and Algeria, as well as the rest of the Levant. They are made by a zalbāni. Zalābiya are made from a batter composed of eggs, flour and milk, and then cooked in oil.

Zalābiya mushabbaka are latticed fritters made in discs, balls and squares. They are dipped in clarified honey perfumed with rose water, musk and camphor. A recipe from a caliph's kitchen suggests milk, clarified butter, sugar and pepper to be added.

Zalābiya funiyya is a "sponge cake" version cooked in a special round pot on a trivet and cooked in a tannur.[9] They are often stick shaped. They are eaten year-round, including in expatriate communities such as in France, although they are especially popular during Ramadan celebrations.[10]

Pani Walalu (Sri Lanka)

Pani Walalu or "Undu Walalu" is a traditional sweet of Sri Lanka prepared by frying a type of doughnut, made by using undu flour and rice flour and soaking in kithul treacle.

See also


  1. Hobson-Jobson, s.v. "JELAUBEE"
  2. 1 2 3 Alan Davidson (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 424–425. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7.
  3. Michael Krondl (1 June 2014). The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin. Chicago Review Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-61374-673-8.
  4. 1 2 Anil Kishore Sinha (2000). Anthropology Of Sweetmeats. Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-212-0665-5.
  5. Dileep Padgaonkar (15 March 2010). "Journey of the jalebi". The Times of India. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  6. "Lebanese and Syrian Christmas Crullers (Zalabiya, Awwamaat)". Foodgeeks. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  7. "Jalebi khani hai?". The Times of India. 7 January 2009.
  8. Maya Shatzmiller (1993). Labour in the medieval Islamic world. BRILL. p. 110. ISBN 978-90-04-09896-1.
  9. Translated by Nawal Nasrallah Annals of the caliphs' kitchens: Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq's tenth-century Baghdadi cookbook Volume 70 of Islamic history and civilization Edition illustrated 2007 ISBN 978-90-04-15867-2. 867 pages BRILL page 413-417
  10. Hadi Yahmid French Ramadan About Solidarity IslamOnline
  11. "Double Dhamaal". IMDb. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
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