I Dream of Rasika: Washington, DC

I woke up dreaming of Gulab Jamun, a delicious North Indian sweet of fried dough soaked in condensed milk and flavored with rosewater from Rasika in Washington DC, where gulab jamun is served with cardamom-spiced ice cream. Lesson learned: When the maitre d’hotel lovingly offers a dessert sampler, say yes, even if you’ve already had the tandoori chicken with black garlic, spinach palak paneer, minced lamb kebab, and English peas with Cabbage (which I wrote about in a recent post). Relax and order a glass of the house-candied ginger Champagne cocktail and make sure to make a note to ask for Farhad, the graceful old-school server who will treat you like a queen.

After a quick call to the restaurant, it seems that Rasika’s chef uses condensed milk and rosewater. The restaurant confirmed their gulab jamun is “like a doughnut, flavored in cardamom and rosewater and soaked with cardamom. It’s North Indian. The chef, Vikram Sunderam from Mumbai, worked at the famed Bombay brasserie in London for 14 years.” A 2009 James Beard nominee, we’re fortunate to have him on this side of the ocean. Rasika is the place to come for full-mouth flavor.

dessert sampler

dessert sampler

I usually take my own photos, but the restaurant was too dark for a great shot. I love the abundance in this image from wikipedia:

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

Now, I’m searching for a recipe so I can try my hand at making these beautiful and satisfyingly sweet treats. Has anyone out there made them?

5 comments... read them below or add one


  1. June 19, 2009 10:02 am by Alejandra Reply

    I love gulab jamun. I’m not sure what it is…something about those pillowy sweet syrupy treats that just makes me happy. The first time I tried them, at an Indian restaurant a handful of years ago, I literally snapped my head up with delight upon first taste. I’ve also been wanting to make them for a while now, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it. Perhaps I’ll add it to my list of culinary goals for the year.

  2. June 20, 2009 10:08 am by kim Reply

    There is something so satifsying about the warm doughy center and the dark syrup-drenched coating. Let me know if you make them. Send recipe and photos.

  3. June 22, 2009 11:47 am by Stacey Reply

    This looks pleasurable beyond words. Never had Gulab Jamun, but next time I’m at a quality Indian Restaurant, I’ll make it a point.

    Just curious…would you be willing to clone your thyroid? How do you eat like that and still look so good?

  4. July 22, 2009 4:20 pm by Vanessa Reply

    This is a jamun recipe I initially got from my best friend’s mom and
    auntie. They made the best Gujarati/Punjabi food. I’ve fiddled with it
    to my tastes and added more aromatics to the syrup. When I feel the
    need for a different sort of spice, I omit the cinnamon and cloves and
    sub in some sliced, peeled ginger and some rose water.

    In my circle of friends, we refer to these as “Sweet Balls.” For whatever reason, a server at an Indian restaurant refused to call these gulab jamun. Apparently, we would understand him better if he just referred to them — over and over and over again — as sweet balls. He finally arrived at our table and proudly held up the bowl and cried loudly “for you, ladies, Sweet Balls!”

    3 cups FULL FAT dry milk powder
    1 cup self-rising flour
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup cream
    1 tablespoon ghee

    oil for frying — I’ve taken to grapeseed, but peanut and veg are fine as well

    2 cups granulated sugar
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 cinnamon stick
    5 cloves
    1 teaspoon cardamom powder (you can sub in 3 bruised pods, but I like
    the speckled look in the syrup)

    Chopped pistachios or sliced almonds or toasted coconut for garnish

    For the syrup combine the water, sugar, aromatics (note, if you’re using rose water, don’t add it at this point. splash it in when the syrup is finished and cooled). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover the pot, leaving it slightly ajar so that some steam can escape. Simmer for 15 minutes. Obviously you don’t want anything the consistency of molasses or golden syrup, but thick enough to suspend and coat each jamun. Let it cool. This keeps pretty well for up to five days in my fridge. If it’s the winter, I’ll use any leftover syrup as a pear poaching liquid. If it’s got the ginger and it’s spring, it’s all about the rhubarb.

    For the precious little balls…combine the milk powder, self-rising
    flour, milk, cream and ghee. Stir it a bit and start kneading the
    dough. You don’t really need to wrestle the glutens into shape. Just
    enough that it’s got some structure, but no heft.

    Then, I heat up the oil in a deep frying pan (cast irons are good, and
    I like my Creuset stew pot for this). The trick told to me was to keep
    it at a low heat. Seems counterintuitive since every other recipe
    emphasis a higher heat for crispness, less oil soaking, etc. But for
    jamun, who am I to argue?

    The only time I used a thermometer, I let the maximum heat reach 300 degrees. With oiled hands, i pinch off a cherry sized piece of dough and roll it into a smooth sphere. I roll about a half a dozen of them and have them rest on a baking sheet. Then I throw the lot in the oil to fry. You don’t want a crazy, infernal sizzle going on in the pot. Gentle frying to get it to that golden blonde.

    While you’re waiting, have the syrup read in a deep container. Once
    the jamun have puffed up and reached that ideal color, I drain them (I
    fish them out with my wok strainer) and put them directly into the
    sugar syrup. Let them sit there so that the very core of them is
    sticky with the syrup.

    I like them fresh, still warm, though the tradition is to serve them
    chilled. To each her own.

  5. September 1, 2009 12:17 pm by Mwaura Reply

    Hey. Love this dessert. Try vahrehvah.com, Chef Thumma has a video recipe on how to make these ;)

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