(Jalebis at Rajbhog Sweets)
Today is the beginning of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights and a National Holiday in Trinidad & Tobago, the island-nation from which my dad hailed. Folks of all backgrounds get into Diwali in TT (reason # 456,041 I love my heritage!) Next to the beautiful bamboo sculpture on with delicate clay lamps are perched, the best thing is the sweets. Jalebi, a crunchy spiral fritter drenched in sweet syrup is a must have. It’s sort of like a thinner, crunchier, shinier funnel cake.
If you are lucky enough to live in New York or other major cities, Indian sweet shops like Rajbhog Sweets (those are their jalebis above) have these and other mithai, festive, holiday sweets of all kinds.
If not, here’s an easy recipe from my book Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From Trinidad & Tobago with a special dedication to pal Chenette whose wonderful blog Lifespan of a Chennette, you can read here (www.chennette.net). What’s a chennette you ask? That’s a post for another day…
Read more about Trini Diwali in my Islands magazine story here: http://www.islands.com/article/Taste-The-Sweetest-Memories
Street vendors sell this fritter resembling flat curly fries year-round. It’s best eaten when freshly made and still crispy.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups plus 1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm water (100–110°F)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Orange food coloring
1 cup canola oil, for frying
1. Place the yeast in a small bowl and sprinkle with the ¼ teaspoon sugar. Add 1/4 cup of the warm water and set the yeast mixture aside until it bubbles.
2. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour. Gradually add the remaining warm water until the mixture achieves the consistency of yogurt. Stir in the orange food coloring drop by drop until the mixture is bright orange. Set aside overnight in a warm place.
3. In the meantime, place 2 cups of water and the 2 cups of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
4. Pour the jalebi mixture into a squeeze bottle or a pitcher with a narrow spout. Heat the oil in a deep pan. Test the oil by adding a drop of jalebi batter to the oil. If it immediately bubbles and bobs to the top, the oil is hot enough. Squeeze or pour the jalebi dough into the hot oil in overlapping, spiraling circles about 4 inches in diameter. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Continue until all the jalebi dough is used.
5. Transfer the jalebis to a bowl while they are still warm and pour the sugar syrup evenly over them so all the sides are coated.