Citizens, allow your incandescent Leader – the always illuminated TFD! – to wish those of you who are observing Hanukkah a happy Festival of Lights, as it begins this evening!
If you are unfamiliar with the holiday or want to learn a few new facts about the history and mysticism around it, learn more here. Now, let me tell you all about Zalābiya, the subject of today’s latest recipe!
One of the great traditions of the holiday is to always enjoy food fried in oil, to celebrate the miracle of the oil that is the central tenet of Hanukkah.
Traditionally, Jews of European descent eat latkes, fried potato cakes. Some Jews enjoy sufganiyot, which are fried jelly doughnuts – but Jews from the Middle East enjoy a unique fried treat that I wish to share with you today!
Zalābiya (also known as zalabia or similar variants), are a sweet popular food in the Middle East, North Africa, and East Africa. These fritters are made by deep-frying maida flour (plain flour or all-purpose flour) batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup. They are particularly popular in Iran and Syria.
This dessert can be served warm or cold. Unlike most fritters, they have a somewhat chewy texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating. Citric acid or lime juice is sometimes added to the syrup, as well as rose water.
In Christian communities in West Asia, it is served on the Feast of the Theophany (Epiphany), often with dry sugar and cinnamon or confectioners sugar. In Iran, where it is known as zolbiya, the sweet was traditionally given to the poor during Ramadan.
A 10th century cookbook gives several recipes for zulubiya fritters. There are several 13th century recipes of the sweet, the most accepted being mentioned in a cookbook by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi. It was also mentioned in a tenth century Arabic cookbook by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, that was later translated by Nawal Nasrallah – you can buy an English translation here.
The dish was brought to Medieval India by Persian-speaking Turkic invaders. Ernest A Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant to the United States, is believed to have used the Persian version zalabia as an early ice cream cone.
In Iran it is known as zolbia (زولبیا) in Persian and in addition to being sweetened with honey and sugar, the fritters are also flavored with saffron and rose water. Zolbia are hollow inside and delightfully crispy outside, drenched in syrup.
In the Indian subcontinent, it is known as “Jalebi” in Hindustani and served with sweetened condensed milk dish, rabri or eaten with kachori and vegetable curry in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.
In the Levant and other Middle Eastern countries, the fritters are known as “zalabia” (زلابية) (sometimes spelt “zalabiya”). In the Maldives, it is known by the name “zilēbi”.
This sweet is called “jeri” in Nepal, a word derived from Jangiri and the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. In Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, this sweet is known as zlebia or zlabia.
Zlebia or zlabia (Maghrebi Arabic: زلابية) is a type of pastry eaten in parts of Northwest Africa, such as Algeria, Tunisia and Libya as well as Morocco.
Natural ingredients include flour, yeast, yogurt, and sugar or honey. This is then mixed with water and commonly two seeds of cardamom (oil for the crackling).
Zalābiya are fried dough foods, including types similar to straight doughnuts. These are found in and around Iran and the Arab countries of Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Comoros and Algeria, as well as the rest of the Levant. They are made by a zalbāni. Zalābiya are made from a batter composed of eggs, flour and milk, and then cooked in oil.
Zalābiya mushabbaka are latticed fritters made in discs, balls and squares, first created to please the palates of medieval Caliphs in Persia. They are dipped in clarified honey perfumed with rose, musk and camphor. A recipe from a caliph’s kitchen suggests milk, clarified butter, sugar and pepper to be added.
As far as I can tell, this ultimate version of fritters worthy of royalty is a lost recipe, but I have recreated it for you, Citiizens!
The rare perfumes and spices used in the Caliphate fritters version are nearly impossible to find today – after much effort, I have found sources for the Bulgarian rose oil (the best in the world!), musk, grains of paradise, and camphor.
Especially with musk and camphor, be SURE you are getting the natural product and not an inedible synthetic substitute! As all of these ingredients are pricey, feel free to leave any or all of them out if you prefer – although there is one way you can get a musk equivalent inexpensively.
As it happens, Australians are very fond of a form of LifeSaver candy that is musk-flavored (with a synthetic but edible equivalent). It’s not the real deal, but in a pinch it does work – buy them here.
This lavish and spectacularly-flavored dessert is a perfect way to enjoy Hanukkah – or any special celebration you might be observing! I have started with the excellent base recipe for Zulbia fritters at fae-magazine.com and modified it as above. Enjoy the only extant version of this lost recipe, Citizens!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Iranian Fritters Of The Caliph in Syrup – زولبیا مشاببك
- Total Time: 0 hours
- Batter :
- 55 g (1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp) cornstarch, sifted
- 50 g (3 1/2 Tbsp) whole milk yogurt
- 3/4 tsp flour, unbleached, all purpose
- 2 1/4 tsp. rose water
- 1 tsp. rosewater
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda (add before frying)
- corn oil for frying
- Syrup :
- 200 g (1 cup) orange blossom honey
- 200 g (1 cup) water
- 1 Tbsp. rosewater or a few drops Bulgarian rose oil (strongly preferred)
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- A few drops edible-grade musk extract (strongly preferred) or 1 finely crushed musk-flavored LifeSaver candy from Australia
- A tiny pinch of ground crystals of edible camphor
- 1 tsp. Grains of Paradise, freshly-ground
- 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground cardamom
- 1 tbsp. saffron cream, made from 1/2 smidgen ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp. hot cream
- Finely-minced or ground pistachios for garnish
- To make the batter:
- In a medium-sized deep bowl, using silicone spatula, combine cornstarch and yogurt as much as possible (it turns into a crumbly mix). Add flour and rosewater and with tenacity, combine until well blended into a very thick batter. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
- When ready to fry, make the syrup. Syrup needs to be warm for this recipe.
- In a medium-sized deep saucepan, add honey and water, swirl and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, add rosewater, camphor, musk, lemon juice, grains of paradise, cardamom, and saffron cream, swirl to combine and let simmer for 1 minute.
- When ready for frying: Add baking soda and rose water to the batter and thoroughly mix with spatula until flowing, but thick, smooth consistency. Note: Batter which is too thin will result in too thin fritters.
- Pour the batter into a pastry squeeze-bottle (preferred over piping-bag) with no smaller hole than about 3mm (1/8”) diameter.
- To fry batter:
- Use a mid-sized flat fry-pan. Pour oil up to 1 cm (3/8”) deep. Heat oil on a-notch-or-two-lower-than medium. To test the temperature of oil, squeeze a drop of the batter into the oil and if the batter immediately expands and rises to the top, the oil is ready.
- For a successful shape, it is recommended to use a non-stick egg-ring in the oil as a guide (about 10 cm/ 4″ diameter). Have a small plate by the stove to rest the hot, oily egg-ring if needed.
- Squeeze batter into the oil slowly in a continuous coil motion, all around the inner edge of the egg-ring, leading to the center. If you wish to make them in the classic lattice shape, that is another option as well. Once the they are formed, loosen the ring and place it in the oil again for the next fritter to be squeezed out.
- As soon as the batter is fully enlarged and a tad golden at the edges, use a prong, fork or chopsticks, easily flip to fry the other side. When golden on both sides, scoop out, hold to drip the oil and immediately submerge it in the warm syrup for about 30 seconds.
- With a different utensil, scoop and place on the serving dish. Garnish with finely minced or ground pistachios.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Category: Recipes
- Calories: 341.32 kcal
- Sugar: 41.81 g
- Sodium: 175.0 mg
- Fat: 14.41 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.76 g
- Trans Fat: 0.0 g
- Carbohydrates: 55.16 g
- Fiber: 0.31 g
- Protein: 0.78 g
- Cholesterol: 6.76 mg
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?
Leave a Reply