You know, it’s all well and good, moving to a new continent, country, city in search of greener pastures. It has been a part of people’s lives for as long as people have lived on this Earth. It happens, and you just have to be prepared for it and accept it. I used to find it silly to attach yourself too much to a piece of land, when you never know where life could take you!
But the feeling that comes over me when I think about the Northern Mountains of Pakistan, the fresh (and somewhat scant) air, the fragrant pines, rich colors, and the unbelievably immense scale of the landscape! The tallllll pines and the lofty mountains! The glaciers! The lakes! One feels so dwarfed and completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the terrain.
I opened the jar of a mountain pine candle here in a store once and my first reaction was-‘ Oh that does smell like pines… how did they make that? How do they know what pines smell like?’
Because considering how many acres upon acres are covered with pines here, there is not even a fraction of the fragrance that the mountain air is so laden with in Pakistan. And right after it rains…!!! But that’s just the way it is in this world. Pakistan has immense natural beauty, but nobody cares about it and it’s being rapidly wiped out, while even though here, fruits lack flavor and flowers don’t have any scent, it is cared for and preserved.
The way those memories pull at my heartstrings! I didn’t know I could even hurt in that place. Culture is the other thing. I always told myself that culture is a superficial thing, (I am always trying to move past culture and remain focused on one main idea of goodness and values) especially since we have to work on separating culture from religion while at the same time find a way to assimilate in a foreign culture, and carve out a unique identity for ourselves.
But what can you do when you listen to PTV songs from the archives? The way my heart does a painful twist, it just reminds me that I can’t separate myself from Pakistan. It lives inside me. I want my daughter to learn sa re ga not do re mi. The language, the poetry, the nuances, the jokes, the music- it all transports me to a different happy place.
The difference definitely is that when you’re there, you don’t appreciate that sense of belonging and being a living part of that culture. Now, I appreciate Pakistani things a lot more. Like PTV, the earthy fragrance that fills the air after it has rained, and gulab jaman.
The wonder of being able to make gulab jaman that can easily compare with or surpass the best that you’ve had in Pakistan is really something. We long so much for the tastes of Pakistan that a lot of ladies here have become experts in making foods that people only get at restaurants in Pakistan.
Speaking of which, the famous Haji Hakim’s gulab jaman of Sharakpur definitely deserve a mention here. Sharakpur is a small city near Lahore, and no one goes there without bringing back these little gems.
They are mini, bite sized gulab jaman, known for their melt-in-the-mouth quality, served in little clay matkis or handis. Now isn’t that a beautiful way of serving these delectable delights?
After posting a much researched gulab jaman recipe earlier (that you can see here>> Decadent Gulab Jaman) I decided to post another one. You have to try this. It’s phenomenal! Both taste similar, but there are differences. The major difference is that this one uses baking powder instead of baking soda. These ones come out bigger- they puff up more. I’ve also noticed that baking powder gives the gulab jaman a kind of ‘crust’ on the outside. If you immediately soak them in syrup (which, of course, you would do) then it’s not noticeable. But I know it’s there! However, chances are that you won’t even be able to tell, but just because I’ve tried these recipes and compared them so much, I might be a bit more sensitive to this sort of thing.
But I think, overall, this recipe is very stable and manageable, and yields very professional results. The effort is minimal, the look is impressive, and the taste is top notch.
Follow the recipe to make the dough. It might be slightly sticky. Quickly make the balls. Drop them in batches into the slightly warm oil.
They will double in size, so don’t crowd the pan.
Move them around gently but constantly to ensure an even color.
Take them out after 6-7 minutes and drop them into the prepared (warm) syrup.
- 1 cup milk powder (I use Nido)
- ½ cup four
- 1 heaped tbsp sooji (semolina)
- 1 tbsp softened/melted butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder (I use Rumford, available in most grocery stores)
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- Nuts for garnishing (optional)
- Oil for deep frying
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ tsp green cardamom, crushed or powdered
- a few strands of saffron (optional)
- Put all the ingredients into a saucepan on medium heat and stir to dissolve all the sugar completely.
- Bring to a boil and then keep warm while you make the gulab jaman.
- Set the oil on low heat to get warm.
- Sift all the dry ingredients.
- Mix lightly with a whisk until combined.
- Add the egg, butter and heavy cream.
- Knead well for a minute or so until it forms a smooth dough.
- Working quickly, make small balls with the dough. (I use a melon baller to measure out equal sized balls.)
- Increase the heat to medium low and start frying the balls in batches.
- Continuously move the gulab jaman around while frying, so that they get evenly browned.
- Fry each batch for 6-7 minutes to make sure they are cooked through.
- Drop them into the syrup and let them soak while you fry the next batch.
- Garnish with nuts if desired (finely chopped cashews/pistachios/almonds/coconut).
- You can serve them in the syrup or take them out, but gulab jaman are best served warm.
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