Most of us who have grown up on a steady diet of Indian television in the ’90s are familiar with this advertisement for a refined oil brand: a forlorn little boy sits on a bench at a train station. As he sits there waiting for a train, he complains, “Sab gussa karte hain... mai ghar chod ke jaa raha hoon (everyone scolds me, I’m leaving home).” And the elderly ‘Ramu kaka’ replies nonchalantly, “Arre ghar pe toh mummy ne garma-garam jalebiyan banayi hain”. With wide eyes and a huge smile, the kid exclaims, “Jalebi?” and hops back home with Ramu kaka. The last shot is that of the boy helping himself to a handful of glistening, orange jalebis, with an angelic expression.
The unassuming delicacy, usually dished out during festive and celebratory moments, is an integral part of the Indian household. So where do Puneites like to buy their jalebis from? A quick check reveals that smaller, lesser-known sweet shops are preferred by many a foodie.
Jalebi Junction at Baner is one such place, and as the name suggests, their specialty is jalebi — plain as well as rabdi jalebis. “We make jalebis to order, straight from the kadhai to the plate, and we make them in desi ghee,” says Shevali Mathur, its owner. The eatery also serves other items such as chaat and sweets, but is most known for Dollar jalebis, which are only slightly larger than a Rs 5 coin.
Many others flock to Karachi Sweets — a five-generation-old establishment on MG Road — for jalebis in the evening, but Monish Athwani, its manager, says, “The best time to buy jalebis is early in the morning or early evening. That’s when the sweet is hot and fresh.” At Rs 200 per kilo, their jalebis are most popular during festivals and winter.
Pankaj Sweets in Kothrud is another place to reckon with in the jalebi kingdom. “One of the best things about our jalebi is that it remains crispy for almost four days — even during the monsoon,” says Umesh Thakur, its manager.
While more and more variants of the sweet are coming up in the market — be it the apple-flavoured jalebi or the paneer jalebi — most people here prefer them in their original form. Kanti Lal, owner of Mulchand Sweets on Centre Street in Camp, says, “On an average, we sell 12 to 15 kgs a day, priced at Rs 160/kg.