Gulab Jamuns with my Jaan

There are so many sweet dishes that come up during the holidays but gulab jamuns are the first ones I ever participated in making with my mom. With minimal ingredients, these little dough dumplings make you underestimate not only how delicious they are but also how important technique is. At this point, if something has baking soda I’m wary of its simplicity haha. Gulab meaning rose and jamun meaning dumplings, these fried dough balls infused with a rosy sugar syrup are hard to stop eating.

I make these every new year now as kind of a gentle reminder of my beginnings. Coincidentally these are also one of the known sweets in the states. It makes me think of a time when this wasn’t the case. I was reminded as I was reading a friends story about when we first introduced this dish to our classmates or peers, our direct translations labeled them as ‘balls’. How we had to become more caught up in the embarrassment and defense of what we grew up with than the indulging bite of this sugary golden brown cardamom delight. Then I guess we found the. words of doughnuts in rosy syrup and soon this dish was practically. seductive!

Our identities always seem like a flux and although food isn’t the only crux of that identity, it feels like a litmus paper of what scale we’ve become familiar for America. For those of us forced to migrate or seek refugee, this feeling can be overwhelming.  As we find the worlds to better belong with another, I hope we will practice patience in the awkward moments that connect them,


1.5 cup Milk powder
2 tbsp Yogurt
Pinch of Baking soda
2 tbsp All purpose flour
Oil for frying and coating

1.5 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
6 Cardamom pods
1 tbsp Rose water
Almonds/pistachios to garnish (optional)
Saffron (optional)

Go ahead and make the syrup first so it can cool before we move to the “jamun” or dough dumplings.
On medium heat, add all ingredients to a pot and bring to the boil. Open up the cardamon pods as you drop them in for maximum flavor. Some people will add a couple strands of saffron for the color and taste but I’m a college student soo assuming I can’t afford it is accurate. This will take roughly 10-15 minutes, put aside to cool. (Refrigerate if short on time or doing it in advance, sugar crystals might form but will dissolve when reheated)

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For the dough balls, take a wide shallow container and plate. Add baking soda, flour, milk powder, and pinch of salt. Sift together.

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Oil your palms, we’re going to start moving quickly once we add the yogurt. This is because the dough will harden if not formed into packed balls. I’ve found that Greek yogurt makes it creamier while regular yogurt will make it more spongy. Add the dollops to the mixture and start mixing it up lightly with the milk powder mixture. You can add a little (1/2-1 tbsp) water if the mixture isn’t clumping. Don’t overmix as it will impact the texture of the gulag jamun, keep a loose crumbly texture.

Grab a lump of dough and firmly press between oiled palms and form a smooth ball. Once visible cracks are gone, set it down on an oiled plate. Again, overplaying with it will also impact the texture to be tougher so keep an eye on your dough ball 🙂

Bring the oil to a medium high and then lower to medium-low so the jamuns don’t burn as soon as you plop them in. You can tell its time to make this switch by testing a pinch of flour and how fast it bubbles up to the surface.  I’m trying to take traditional recipes and make them healthier or at least less of a guilt trip for someone like me who has hypothyroid, so I’ll try baking them next time and update you with results on texture and flavor!

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Using your spatula, keep turning the dough balls so they cook evenly if shallow frying. If deep frying, you can take them out in 2-3 minutes or as soon as they are golden brown.Once evenly cooked, take the jamuns out on to something that will drain excess oil.Drop them into the syrup while hot. Let these soak for at least 1-2 hours before serving.

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Reheat if refrigerated to serve warm or leave at room temperature until cool. Garnish with coconut, almonds, or more syrup.
Fun fact: my partner finished all 8 in one sitting. Their metabolism is amazing, my blood sugar is crying.

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