Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun If heaven on earth existed … in my mouth … it would be this.  The land of milk and honey.  Sinfully sweet and smelling of roses.  I encountered this delightful desert during a dinner at a trendy Indian restaurant, Nirvana Beverly Hills, with other bloggers … so they didn’t mind at all when I whipped out my phone at the dinner table to tweet that I was having some sort of delicious Oh-My-Gawd experience.    It was like falling in love for the first time and I wanted to proclaim it to the World.  You must be thinking that I’m over-reacting to a simple meal.  I admit, it could have been the sensual atmosphere of Nirvana which is candle-lit and oozing not-so-subtle hints of Kama Sutra with their artwork and menu descriptions.  Appetizers are called “Foreplay.”  Entrees … “Loss of Innocence.”  And dessert … “Sensuous Pleasures, Sin committed, but quickly forgotten.”  Whoa.  I have to remember, this is Beverly Hills.

But I do believe that even if I wasn’t under the glittery influence of LA, upon savoring this treat I still would have closed my eyes, left the earth and had a moment.  The taste of sweet roses … not the scent of a flower, but it’s flavor.  By the time I regained my senses the menus had already been lifted from the table and I didn’t know my new lover’s name.  I tweeted that I was having a sweet honey and rose flavored dessert.  Someone immediately responded, “you must be having Gulab Jamun.”

I tried saying that out loud, but it sounded like I was trying to speak with a mouthful.  (Try it.  Right now.  Go ahead.  Say … Guuuulaaaab Jaaamuuun.  See?)   So I just made a mental note of the roses and honey.  Later when I went to post about it again, in my insecurity of the language, I described them as honey rose donut holes.  Big mistake.  HUGE!  My Middle Eastern friends quivered at the comparison.  “Gulab Jamun are not donut holes!” they proclaimed.  But … uhm … they certainly look like donut holes?  Fancy rose scented ones at that!  Wikipedia describes them as waffle balls.   I once called them O.M.G. balls.  That didn’t quite sound right either.  So let’s just learn how to pronounce it correctly.  According to MacMillan Dictionary, it’s /ɡʊˌlɑːb ˈjɑːmən/.

And here’s how to make them …

Start with some honey, powdered milk, and roses.

galub jamon24

I actually used the roses to make tea.  Nirvana did give me a recipe for making rose water at home (posted below).  But I found it at my local grocer in the spice section as a natural gourmet flavoring … or perfume?

galub jamon28

The dry milk I was a little iffy about.  One of my chef friends suggested using  all whole ingredients (i.e. nothing powdered or dried).  So I looked up other recipes online for gulab jamun and all used powdered milk.  So I decided to stick to the recipe.  Doesn’t look appetizing … but works like a charm!

galub jamon 25

Add a little baking powder …

galub jamon 28

As if the powdered milk wasn’t enough … add to that 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream.  Yeah … these donuts …I mean …. gulab jamun, are rich and creamy little cakes.

galub jamon29

Mix together with a wooden spoon.  It gets a little sticky.

galub jamon 31

I was unprepared to have my photo taken … against the only wall in my kitchen that is unpainted and undecorated.  Hair tossed in a clip and 70’s ring-T on.  Ew.  At least the apron is flirty.  I’m actually standing on a stool to gain some leverage on this counter island for mixing.  Increasing my height by 8 inches also helps me channel my inner Julia Child.  But I digress … back to the recipe …

galub jamon 29

Cover your hands in flour and roll dough into 1 inch balls.

galub jamon10

galub jamon9

galub jamon11

galub jamon12

Confession: here’s where I went wrong the first time around.

I’m a runner, so I don’t cook/eat/prepare fried foods.  Ever.  I don’t have a deep fryer.  I’m also the kind of cook that sometimes just throws from the hip and says, “let’s try it!” without properly researching.

Google is at my fingertips.  I should have looked up “heating” and “boiling points” of oil.

But instead I followed the advice of Julia Child, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell?’ attitude.”

So, “what the heck!”  Let’s pour some oil in a pan and turn the temperature up to high!   (By the way, I don’t recommend this!)

galub jamon14

And the first one goes in …

(See … that oil doesn’t look hot, does it?)

galub jamon15

Pop!  Crack!  Sizzle …

galub jamon 16


This happened in all of 3 seconds.  Seriously.  The recipe calls for them to reach a “rich mahogany color.”  But somehow I don’t think this fits that description.  Especially since it happened so fast that I doubt the inside cooked.  So … we turned the heat to medium and waited a bit.  Learn from my mistake.

galub jamon18

After the oil was at a sufficient “cook-instead-of-burn” temperature , we started getting some golden brown results.  PS … my whole house now smells like fried gulab jamun from the burn experiment.

galub jamon21

galub jamon23

gulab jamon7

Meanwhile …

The syrup is being made.

This is similar to a simple syrup used in drink making … only with rose water and honey.  Bring sugar and water to a boil, then add 2 tablespoons of rose water.  I also added two tablespoons of honey after it cooled.

galub jamon 26

Pour the sugar water over the gulab jamun and let it soak in.

gulab jamon5

gulab jamon 2

Gulab Jamun

Rose-Flavored Cakes in Sugar Syrup

from the kitchen of Nirvana Beverly Hills

Makes 25-30 Balls

The Sugar Syrup:

2 pounds sugar

2 quarts plus 1 pint water

2 tablespoons rose water***

The Dough:

3 cups dry milk

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

2 ½ cups heavy cream

3 pints of oil for deep frying

Make the sugar syrup first: In a heavy saucepan bring the sugar and water to a boil, then let it thicken by cooking over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add the rose water and keep the syrup warm at a low simmer.

In a large bowl mix the ingredients for the dough thoroughly to make a still batter. Let mixture sit for 10-15 minutes to set. Take a pinch of dough a little smaller than a golf ball and roll it between your palms to round it into a neat ball.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

In a wok or heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat until a haze begins to form, just before it begins to smoke. Carefully add the balls until the surface is covered. (If necessary cook the balls in more than one batch.) With a large spoon, start turning the balls just as they begin to take on color. After about 3 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low, and continue to turn the balls until they acquire a rich mahogany color.

When the sweetmeats have achieved a luscious, deep color, turn the heat up to high for 2-3 minutes to add still more color and to firm the crust. Drain onto paper towels.

When drained, put the balls into a large bowl and pour the sugar syrup over them. Let them rest until the syrup reaches room temperature. They can now be eaten – but they will taste even better if allowed to “tighten” until the next day.

NOTE: Gulab Jamun will keep a week or more, stored in the refrigerator.

***How to make Rose Water:

5 large roses

2 quarts cool (not iced) water

Wash roses thoroughly in cold water. Pick off all the petals, reserving a few for garnish; put the remainder in a large ceramic jar. Pour the cool water over them and set them aside in a dark place (away from any sunshine) for at least 4 hours. Strain the rose water and discard petals.


a.k.a. @TravelBlggr


About Rachelle Lucas

Rachelle is a writer, spokesperson, and travel videographer. She believes the best way to learn about a destination is through its flavors and collects recipes from her trips to recreate them here on The Travel Bite. She’s currently the Food and Dining Insider for Visit Florida and was recently named by KRED as one of the Top 50 Travel Bloggers in the world.

As much as Rachelle enjoys traveling and tasting new foods, she also loves to run. She’s completed the New York City Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon as well at 5 half marathons.


  1. thanks !! very helpful post!

  2. Great Post. Thanks for sahring!!

  3. I feel like I’m always looking for interesting things to read about a variety of subjects, but I manage to include your blog among my reads every day because you have honest entries that I look forward to. Here’s hoping there’s a lot more amazing material coming!

Speak Your Mind