My Mother-In-Law’s Gulab Jamun Recipe

Freshly made gulab jamun

I’ve been eating gulab jamun since before i can remember- and i mean that literally. I can’t remember when i first had them. As a asian child, there is no way you can escape coming across them and tasting at some point. Otherwise they revoke your asian license. I joke, but that’s how much these sweets embody south asian heritage, especially in indian, bangladeshi, pakistani and nepali culture.

So wait, what is gulab jamun?

For those of you who have no clue what i’m talking about, or what this random brown thing is in the pretty dessert bowl (like pretty much everything in this recipe, even this is my mother-in-law’s), let me explain! Gulab jamun is an extremely popular and well-loved south asian sweet dessert. There’s many, many, MANY methods of making them. But at the most basic level, they are always milk-based, always deep-fried, always drenched in sugar syrup, and there are always passionate arguments online about how to make THE perfect gulab jamun. I’m risking my life by posting a recipe on here, to be honest.

These days you will mostly come across these sweets in asian weddings or in indian groceries and sweet stores. In London, you can find these very easily in any sweet shop in most south asian shopping areas. For example, Southall and Ealing Road towards the west of London, or Whitechapel and Brick lane, towards the East. I’ve even seen them in large supermarkets! As someone who never, ever saw these sweets outside of their own home growing up, it still boggles my mind how popular they are becoming outside asian circles. I love it!

If you can find gulab jamun in shops, why should i bother making them?

Believe me, there is one hell of a difference between shop-brought gulab jamun and home-made (no shade intended). It’s true gulab jamun take a long time to make, and some of the ingredients may not be ones you typically have lying around the house, but you will have to trust me when i say: it is worth it.

Freshly made gulab jamun is indescribably fragrant. It’s pillow soft on the inside, with a thin crunch that gives way easily to your teeth. Then your mouth is full of sweet, sweet syrup. But somehow its not too sweet, yet engulfs your mouth with flavour.

You just CAN’T get that level of flavour from a shop-brought gulab jamun. Anyone who bakes or cooks with any regularity can attest that most things freshly made taste better, but home-made gulab jamun are pretty much a completely difference species to the ready-made ones.

Does, er, your mother-in-law know you’re posting her recipe?

Ha! Yes of course. She actually asked me to write it up. Lately we have been having discussions about cultural and uncommon traditional recipes. Certain dishes are very popular, and their recipes will always keep being made, with minimal efforts to pass them on. But what about more complex and traditional recipes, that are being lost in the age of fast-living and ready availability?

I’m all for fast living and for being able to find anything and everything online, trust me. But i do believe it’s important to share recipes like this, which have been passed down the generations and deeply symbolise different cultures. If we don’t share, they will be lost. The sheer diversity of recipes for one single dessert like gulab jamun tells you how much it is worth and loved in south asian culture. So here is my mother-in-law’s and my contribution to passing on a recipe, and the cultural significance with it.

So let’s get on to the recipe! But just before that, i’ll link what i used for the more specific ingredients in this recipe, that might not be so readily known:

Milk powder: we used Nido Milk Powder.

You can use kewra or rose water for this recipe: we used this rose water in this specific recipe, but kewra is great too.

My Mother-In-Law’s Gulab Jamun Recipe

Sabrina@girlwiththematcha
Gulab Jamun has to be one of the most well-loved sweets in South Asia, with time-honoured recipes for it being passed down the generations. This milk-based deep-fried sweet, drenched in sugary syrup, is indescribably flavourful and has been popping up in non-asian dessert places more and more lately! This is the recipe that has been passed down to me, by my mother-in-law who has been making these delicious sweets for years, to utter perfection.
Cook Time 3 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Bengali, Indian
Servings 20 gulab jamuns!

Ingredients
  

For the gulab jamun

  • 1 1/2 cup milk powder
  • 1/4 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup fine semolina
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ghee, melted
  • 1 pinch cardamom powder
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water You may not need all this water
  • vegetable/sunflower oil enough to deep fry your gulab jamuns

For the sugar syrup

  • 3 cup caster sugar
  • 3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp kewra or rose water

Instructions
 

To make the gulab jamun

  • In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together,
  • Then add the ghee and mix together. Doing this by hand is best.
  • A little by little (approximately 2 teaspoons at a time), carefully add in the lukewarm water. You may not need all this water.
  • Knead the dough with your hands between each addition of water. The dough shouldn't be wet, but should be smooth and dent if you poke it with your finger.
  • Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. don't worry if the pieces look small, they will puff up when they are fried.
  • At this point, start to heat up your oil, on medium heat.
  • Using the palm of your hands, roll each piece into a smooth ball.
  • When the oil is hot, lower the heat to low-medium heat. After 5 minutes, start adding your gulab jamun balls into the oil.
  • Cook these until they become a rich, golden-brown colour.
  • When they are done, cover a dish with kitchen towel, and place the gulab jamun on it, to mop up the excess oil.
  • Leave the gulab jamun to cool for approximately one hour.

To make the sugar syrup

  • Combine the sugar and water in a clean pan, put on medium heat, and stir gently.
  • When you start to see bubbles forming, lower the heat.
  • When the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has become thicker (not too thick- slightly coating your spoon like thin syrup, add in your freshly coated gulab jamun.
  • Simmer the gulab jamun in the syrup on low heat, with the lid on for an hour.
  • Your gulab jamun are now ready. Enjoy!

Notes

This is a long recipe that takes time, but it is well worth the effort! If you wish, you can leave out the rose or kewra water, and even the cardamon powder- these are mostly for added fragrance and a bit of extra flavour. 
Keyword bengali recipe, dessert, dessert recipe, gulab jamun, indian recipe, indian sweets, south asian recipe, tradition recipe, traditional

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