Trini gulab jamoon is an elongated Indian sweet made with flour and dairy products that has been deep fried and coated with a sugary syrup (called paag).
The delicacy is most commonly made around Divali, the Hindu festival of lights. But it is also found in sweets made for Hindu prayer ceremonies throughout the year.
Its counterpart – kurma – is a popular street snack in T&T. Gulab jamoon is actually called fat kurma because it looks like a thicker version of kurma.
Now, gulab jamoon is actually a misnomer.
That’s Not Gulab Jamun
What East Indians call gulab jamun, we in T&T call rasgulla. This delicacy is a fried ball made with milk powder, flour, and ghee and is served in a sugary syrup.
Oh and what they call rasgulla is another entirely different sweet made with paneer.
It’s easy to get confused.
Indo-Trinbagonian food originates from North Indian and Bengali cuisine. But I haven’t been able to pinpoint the delicacy that closely resembles our version of gulab jamoon.
They are made with paneer, semolina or all-purpose flour and ghee. It is possible that the unavailability of ingredients or the need to save time may have caused the Indo-Caribbean people to adapt the recipe.
I’ll leave the semantics and origin-tracing to the experts.
Let’s get to the recipe.
How to Make Trini Gulab Jamoon
To complicate things further, there are different ways to make Trini gulab jamoon.
Some use milk powder; others use evaporated milk. A few even add in coconut milk.
This recipe is my mother-in-law’s. She used cream in hers (probably since she made barfi at the same time and only needed half a tin for it… where else would she have used the rest of the cream? Heh!).
Here’s the full ingredient list:
- condensed milk
- cardamom (elychee) powder
- vegetable oil
- spices like ginger (optional)
- milk powder (optional)
Steps for making gulab jamoon
To make gulab jamoon, mix in the cardamom powder and flour together.
Next, incorporate in the cream, butter, and ghee. You want the butter and ghee to be evenly distributed in the flour – very much like pastry dough.
Finally, add the condensed milk and knead until the dough holds its shape and becomes slightly sticky.
You can leave the dough to rest for an hour or too, but it is not necessary. When you’re making four or five different Indian delicacies, who has the time to wait? Heh!
To form the gulab jamoon, break a 2-inch ball off and squeeze the dough in your hand multiple times – think of it as grip strength exercises. Squeezing gives you a smoother dough when shaping it and prevents cracking while frying.
Now, if you do see some cracks in your dough – don’t worry about it. Taste is the goal not perfection. Besides those cracks trap extra syrup (paag) making them taste better.
When you’re done squeezing the dough, roll them between the palms of your hands to form an elongated shape – it should be thicker in the middle and pinched at the ends.
Frying the gulab jamoon
This is the most important tip for making gulab jamoon:
It MUST be fried on low heat.
If the oil is too hot, the gulab jamoon will brown too quickly on the outside without cooking thoroughly on the inside. You don’t want that. So, use low heat to achieve that even cooking.
Unfortunately, there is no exact temperature I can give you for the oil. It’s all about trial and error.
Test with one first, rotate to make sure it develops a nice golden brown color on all sides and then remove from the heat (it can stay about ten minutes in the oil).
Break it open and check the insides. If there are air pockets in there all the way to the center (like pastries), then it is done.
Add enough gulab jamoon to the pot without overcrowding. Continue frying and rotating until they develop a nice golden to dark brown color. Each batch will take at least 10 minutes to cook.
Remove from the heat and place over paper towels to soak up the excess oil.
Leave to cool.
Paag is the Hindi word for syrup. So, making paag essentially means you are making a thin, sugary syrup.
To do this, add water and sugar to a pot on low heat.
At this point, you can add spices to the mixture. My mother-in-law likes to add raw grated ginger to the syrup; whereas my mom sometimes adds cardamom (elychee) and cinnamon powder. You can choose what you like to add here – or just leave it out. It’s optional.
Stir and monitor the syrup. It can take about 20 minutes for the syrup to go from very runny to frothy and developing threads. When the threads start forming, your paag is finished.
My mom uses a glass pot so she sees when sugar crystals form on the sides. When that happens, she knows it’s done.
Spoon the syrup onto the gulab jamoon and quickly toss them around to ensure even coating.
Be very careful when doing this as syrup can give you a nasty burn if it lands on your skin.
Once the gulab jamoon is nicely coated, you can add a few tablespoons of milk powder or icing sugar. The powder mixes in with the hot syrup and forms a bright, white coating around the delicacy. It also stops the gulab jamoon from sticking to each other.
Look at that deliciousness! Pin it…
Gulab Jamoon Recipe
Trini Gulab Jamoon (Fat Kurma) Recipe
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- ⅔ cup cream
- 8 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 1 cup condensed milk
- ¼ tsp cardamom (elychee) powder
- vegetable oil for frying
- ¾ cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ tbsp ginger
- ¼ tsp cardamom (elychee) powder
- milk powder (optional)
- icing sugar (optional)
- Mix cardamom powder and flour together.
- Add cream, butter and ghee to the dry ingredients.
- Incorporate the ingredients together until it becomes crumbly like in pastry making.
- Add condensed milk.
- Knead until a slightly sticky dough forms that holds its shape.
- Break a 2-inch ball off and squeeze the dough a few times.
- Roll between the palms of your hands to form an elongated shape.
- Pinch the edges. The dough should be thicker in the middle and pointed at the ends.
- Place a large pot on the stove. Set to low heat.
- After a couple minutes, add enough oil to deep fry the gulab jamoon (should be over 3 inches of oil from the base of the pot).
- Add one gulab jamoon to test the oil, rotate to ensure even cooking until golden brown. Remove the test sweet from the oil and allow to drain and cool for a few seconds. Break apart. If the center has air pockets all the way through, the oil is ready for frying. If it is not completely cooked, leave the oil for a couple more minutes to heat up. If the gulab jamoon is very dark on the outside but uncooked on the inside, reduce the heat.
- When the oil is ready for frying, carefully add enough gulab jamoon to the pot, without overcrowding it.
- Turn frequently to ensure even cooking.
- After 10 minutes or so, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon.
- Place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
- Leave to cool.
- Repeat until all the gulab jamoon have been fried.
- Place another pot on the stove set to low heat.
- Add water and sugar.
- Stir to dissolve.
- Add optional spices like grated ginger, cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, etc.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy, sugar threads develop and sugar recrystalizes on the sides of the pot.
- Spoon the syrup onto the gulab jamoon.
- Toss the gulab jamoon quickly and carefully to ensure even coating and prevent the sweets from sticking together.
- Add a few tablespoons of milk powder or icing sugar and toss again.
- Allow to cool before serving.