You know what I feel most patriotic towards? The dishes that originate from our Indian roots. The ones with the spices and flavors of our country, the ones capable of igniting nationalism in all of us. You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I found that Gulab Jamun is not an Indian dessert – or at least that’s what they say.
It is said to have originated from Persia, and rose to popularity in the Mughal era when it was consumed by the sultans who got it to our land. The original name for the much-loved dessert is Luqmat Al-Qadi. The term Gulab Jamun, too, is derived from Persian words gul (flower) and ab (water), referring to the rose water scented syrup. Jamun is the Hindi-Urdu word for the Indian fruit that is similar in shape and size to a typical Gulab Jamun.
Legend says that Gulab Jamun was first prepared by the Chef of Shahjaha, the Mughal king famous for creating Taj Mehal, one of the seven wonders of the world. He is said to have been inspired by the Persian desert and soon, this was popularised among us as a royal dessert.
Gulab Jamun is popularly enjoyed in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and other neighboring countries as well. Historian Michael Krondl in his book The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin, wrote, ‘The Indian recipe is more complex than in the Middle East, requiring a mixture of dried and fresh milk thickened with flour. But as in Iran, the mixture is fried and soaked in rosewater syrup’.
Can you imagine life without Gulab Jamuns? No matter what the occasion, Gulab Jamun is always the perfect dessert idea. Wedding reception, a casual dinner party, a birthday celebration or even a damn mourning, Gulab Jamuns go with every mood and occasion. While some, including me, prefer it boiling hot, with minimum syrup and to savor every bite, some prefer it with cold kulfi/ vanilla ice cream, the sweet hot and cold combination confusing and pleasing their senses. If rumors are to believed, actor Siddharth Malhotra likes his Gulab Jamun with mango pickle on the side! It’s even had as a sabzi in Rajhastan, where instead of the balls being soaked in sugar syrup, they are cooked in nuts and tomato gravy.
Well, we sure are no one to judge. Whether or not it has its origin in our country, we believe in Gulab Jamuns for one and all!