Gulab Jamun’s are one of those Industrial scale produced sweets and in some locations in India, you get the same across all outlets.
Yet IMO its one of the few ones I don't mind eating even if you get this wrong, and the reason I like it of course is because it brings with it a wealth of memories that I experienced as a kid.
Gulab Jamuns are essentially deep fried balls of condensed milk/ cheese and flour, seeped in sugar syrup. There are variations - some put fillings of dry fruits in the centre, some flavor them or the syrup.
Its a common staple in most Indian restaurants as it is fairly easy to make. Earlier when I was a kid, most homes wouldn't want to make this but with the launch of instant Gulab Jamnun mixes they also were made at home regularly. You also get Gulab Jamun’s in cans that are available globally.
There are Gulab Jamun’s that miss the mark as most housewives who prepared them will know, and the more you’ve eaten you can easily identify the not-so-good ones. Sometimes the mix is dense, sometimes very flimsy, sometimes too crusty and hard etc. etc. Honest admission, inspire of this folks like me don't mind eating it (esp home made ones).
But then, a good majority of them are perfect - there’s no good. Its only perfect.
So perfect that its a sight to behold and its impressive that so many of them manage to get SO MANY of them right. There’s no machine to make this, its all done by hand.
But when you see the Gulab Jamun rolled and then deep fried (without cracking its surface) there’s a perfectly spherical (almost to rival a ball-bearing) smooth glossy gulab jamun - one can just feel full watching it.
And then there is something called the Kaala Jamun which is essentially the Gulab Jamun without the syrup, and that’s a delight almost heavenly. I absolutely love it.
The reason the Gulab Jamun is special to me, is because it was the very first sweet from outside home that I had tried and I absolutely loved it. My dad had got this for Diwali which was passed around in the office, and I was a tiny little kid who saw this absolutely big box filled with these large dark chocolatey globules which had to be held with both hands. I took some time eating it to find a pink filled centre full of dry fruits and Gulkhand (a preserve made of rose petals). It was absolutely amazing.
My mom wanted to try it at home and made this from sweet condensed milk (called Khoya in India) and we loved it. It was far from perfect, as the surface had cracked, but we kept at it. The taste was absolutely beautiful. All the kids were employed to sit in and make those globules and as much as we tried it wouldn't be as perfect as what we got from outside.
The most perfect gulab jamun I ate was years and years later when I was in Dubai and was at one of those international cuisine hotels, where I couldn't eat most of the food (rare in Dubai where Indian food is rarely off menu). I looked around and the dessert surprisingly had Gulab Jamun while the rest of it was all from the pastry shop. These Gulab Jamuns were at least three times the size of the normals ones suggesting that these were made from hand and not unpacked from a can. I had one bite and I was in heaven, it was that good. Each bite after that would unleash a surge of so much dopamine, I think I got high. In fact I remember sitting there after eating one, and resisting the temptation to eat many more fearing that I might not be able to drive back home (but yes, since you ask I had two more - the MOST blissful set of Gulab Jamuns I’ve had, unbeatable).
I have eaten Gulab Jamuns mostly indifferently and there are many many varieties I have tried. There’s an elongated one in West Bengal and Orissa, and then there’s something called the mini Gulab Jamuns. But if you want a good one, try the Kaala Jamun as its rare to get it wrong and if you get the good stuff have as many as you can, because it might be a long time before you eat it again…. :-)))