If the name confuses you, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Also called Champakali all along the western states of India, Elo Jhelo is a sweet, crunchy, deep-fried sweet that is traditionally made on Bijoya or Vijaya Dashami all across Bengal and Bengali households, regardless of where you stay. I say that with a certainty because I’ve seen friends and family living in Europe, America and even in New Zealand make these around Durga Pujo.
Elo Jhelo is a popular Bengali fried sweet, though where and how it gets its name is unknown to me. The best guess I have is that the name was derived from the word ‘elo melo’, which means disheveled or haphazard. The process is similar to that of making ‘Jibe Gaja’, another popular Bengali sweet.
Pujo celebrations in Mumbai always ended with a Bijoya feast at ours; Maa would be in charge of the Ghugni and chop, while Baba would dish out humongous amounts of Nimki, Goja and Pantua. The fragrance emanating from our kitchen still lingers in my memories. So much nostalgia!
Pujo back then was so different, as most ‘Probash er Pujos’ are. Meaning that Durga Puja outside Bengal is celebrated very differently; the festivities usually take place within closed premises of a club/temple, or at a large open ground. Bhog or prasad is served every day to all, regardless of caste, creed or religion; evenings were dedicated to hogging at the stalls. We’d have our fill of fish fry, chop, roll, moglai porota, biryani…and go home sated! Though the celebrations were marred by our semester exams, our enjoyment wouldn’t be bogged down even a tiny bit!
This is the first time I have attempted to make Elo Jhelo, so there are bound to be some flaws, but all-in-all, I am satisfied since they taste and look pretty much like the ones Baba has always made. For some reason, we’ve always called these ‘Jhumko Goja’ in my family, possibly because they look like jhumkas 😛 Either way, whatever you call them, they taste heavenly…..please excuse me while I go steal a few… 😀
Elo Jhelo or Jhumko Goja
- All-purpose Flour/Maida – 2 cups
- Ghee/Refined Oil – 4 to 5 tbsp (adjust)
- Salt – a pinch
- Baking powder – a tiny pinch
- Water – as needed
- Refined oil – for deep frying
For the syrup:
- Sugar – 1 cup
- Water – 1/2 cup
- Cardamom pods – 3 or 4
- In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking powder, and add the oil/ghee, 1 tbsp at a time.
- Mix it in with your fingertips until it resembles sand.
- Now add the water, slowly, and knead the dough until it has formed a soft, smooth dough.
- Keep aside for 5 to 10 mins, while you make the syrup.
- Let the sugar melt in the water, and add the cardamom pods.
- When the syrup reaches a rolling boil, increase the heat until it forms a one-string consistency. (You can see a lot of bubbles forming on the surface of the syrup, this is the right consistency).
- Turn the heat off and set it aside.
- Pluck lemon-sized balls off the dough, and roll them into concentric circles like a puri.
- Using a sharp knife tip, cut parallel lines in the puri, leaving 1 cm off the edge.
- Now roll them, starting from one end, and bring that end inwards, like you would do with a swiss-roll.
- Press the two ends with your fingertip, and seal well.
- Heat oil for deep-frying, and let it come to medium-high heat.
- Gently tip the elo jhelo into the oil, and fry on a medium-low heat until they’re evenly browned and crisp.
- Take off on to a tissue-lined plate and let cool to room temp.
- Now bring the syrup to a quick boil once more, and add the cool elo jhelo into the boiling syrup.
- The syrup will cyrstalize as soon as it touches the elo jhelo and harden, so work quickly.
- Stir with a long spoon/ladle, and take them out after a minute or so, and set aside on to a plate.
- Let cool, and serve 🙂
- You can store these in an air-tight container for up to a month.