Gulab jamun is a milk-solids -based dessert, similar to a dumpling. It is popular in countries of South Asia such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, also in the Caribbean countries of Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica and in Mauritius. In Nepal, it is widely known as Lal-Mohan, served with or without yogurt. It is made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk. In India, milk solids are prepared by heating milk over a low flame for a long time until most of the water content has evaporated. These milks solids, known as khoya in Pakistan and India, are kneaded into a dough, sometimes with a pinch of flour, and then shaped into small balls and deep fried at a low temperature of about 148 °C. The balls are then soaked in a light sugar syrup flavored with green cardamom and rosewater, kewra or saffron. These days, gulab jamun mix is also commercially available. Gulab jamun is often served at weddings and birthday parties.
Gulab jamun was first prepared in medieval India, derived from a fritter that Persian-speaking invaders brought to India. The word "gulab" is derived from the Persian words gol (flower) and āb (water), referring to the rosewater-scented syrup. "Jamun" or "jaman" is Hindi-Urdu word for Syzygium jambolanum, an Indian fruit with a similar size and shape. An Arab dessert Luqmat Al Qadi is similar to gulab jamun, although it uses a completely different batter. According to the culinary historian Michael Krondl, both Luqmat Al Qadi and Gulab Jamun may have derived from a Persian dish, with rosewater syrup being a common connection between the two.
Gulab jamun is a dessert often eaten at festivals or major celebrations such as marriages, Muslim celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and Diwali (the Indian festival of light) . There are various types of gulab jamun and every variety has a distinct taste and appearance.
Gulab jamun gets its brownish red color because of the sugar content in the milk powder or khoya. In other types of gulab jamun, sugar is added in the batter, and after frying, the sugar caramelization gives it its dark, almost black colour, which is then called kala jam, "black jam". The sugar syrup may be replaced with (slightly) diluted maple syrup for a gulab jamun with a Canadian flavour. Homemade Gulab Jamun is usually made up of powdered milk, a pinch of all-purpose flour (optional), baking powder and clarified butter; kneaded to form a dough, moulded into balls, deep fried and dropped into simmering sugar syrup.
Powdered milk (5 cups), white flour (1 cup), baking powder (2 tsp), and ground cardamon (1 tsp) are mixed together in a large bowl, and butter (1/4 cup) is rubbed into the flour. A small amount of milk (1 cup) is warmed then added to this mixture and then it is kneaded into a firm but pliable dough (if the dough is not moist enough, add small amounts of milk until it feels moist). The dough is gently rolled into small balls between the palms of the hands, then gently deep fried over low heat in Ghee or vegetable oil for 20–25 minutes until the balls of dough are a reddish brown color. The gulab jamun are done when the dough balls swell to almost twice their size, and when pinched between the fingers immediately spring back into shape. They are then removed from the oil and drained in a colander, then placed into a syrup made from sugar (10 cups), water (10 cups), and rose water (2 tsp), often with cardamon (1 tsp) or other sweet spices added (cloves, cinnamon, ginger). If the balls are not cooked long enough, when placed into the syrup, they collapse rather than swell. They should be left in the syrup from 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to serving. They can also be placed into a cream sauce similar to that used for Ras malai made of milk cooked down to 2/3 of its original volume mixed with cream, sugar, almond essence, and crushed pistachio nuts.