Luqaimat, United Arab Emirates
Luqaimat is a popular Middle Eastern dessert consisting of deep-fried balls of pastry which are then covered with date syrup or honey, while some prefer them sprinkled with various seeds. The dessert is traditionally made in the month of Ramadan, and consumed after iftar, or breaking the fast. Crunchy on the exterior, yet airy and soft on the interior, luqaimat is a true festive treat across the Gulf region.
Turkish tulumba is a hot water dough fritter traditionally found in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, particularly throughout the Middle East and the Balkans. Even though tulumba (lit. pump) was named after a special tool used to make it—a kind of syringe with a star-shaped nozzle—in Iranian cuisine they call it bamiyeh; in Egypt balah el-sham, and datli in Iraq; while in the rest of the Arab world tulumba fritters are also known as asabe Zainab (lit. Zainab's fingers).
These deep-fried, crisp-shelled treats deliver a serious kick of sugar as they are soaked in thick, sometimes lemon-flavored syrup. In Lebanon and Syria, they often use orange blossom and rose water for flavoring, while Gulf countries add cardamom and saffron as well, and in Morocco they use heated honey instead of syrup.
Gulab Jamun, India
Gulab jamun is a dessert based on milk solids that are kneaded into a dough, shaped into balls, and deep-fried in ghee. The balls then get soaked in a sugary concoction flavored with saffron, green cardamom, and rose water. When served, gulab jamun is often garnished with dried nuts to further enhance its flavors.
The name of the dish is derived from two words: gulab, meaning rose, and jamun, referring to the purple-colored jamun berry fruit. It is believed that the dessert originated from an Arabic dessert called luqmat al-qadi, which became popular during the Mughal era, when Indian cooks at the palace kitchens adapted their cuisine by combining the newly arrived Persian ingredients with their own Hindu flavors. Nowadays, gulab jamun is often prepared for weddings and during the Diwali festival, both in India and in Trinidad and Tobago, where gulab jamun is also quite popular.
Baursak is a unique fried bread with a puffy appearance consisting of flour, milk, salt, sugar, eggs, butter, and yeast. The bread is fried only for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, or memorials. It is believed that the smell of oil and fried bread floats into the sky to the dearly departed so they can also enjoy the dish. The bread is commonly consumed on its own or as a dessert accompanied with sugar, butter, jam, or honey, while some people like to dip it in tea. Interestingly, the biggest baursak was made in Ufa, Russia, in 2014, with a weight of 179 kg.
Although it is believed to have its origins in Persia, zulbia or jalebi is an international dessert with variations that spread throughout the Middle East, India, and Asia. In its basic form, this sweet dessert is created by combining flour with yogurt or ghee, as well as baking soda or yeast to create a batter which is then poured in circular patterns directly into the sizzling oil. The final result is a crispy treat that is then doused in a thick syrup, which can be flavored with rosewater, saffron, honey, orange blossom water, or cardamom. In both Iran and India, zulbia is served on special occasions, and it is usually sprinkled with chopped pistachios or saffron threads. In India, it is occasionally paired with a dense, milk-based rabri.
Kokis, Sri Lanka
Kokis is a Sri Lankan dessert with Dutch origins, consisting of a batter made with coconut milk, eggs, and rice flour. The batter is coated around decorative molds and deep-fried in coconut oil until it develops a crispy texture. Kokis can be consumed as an appetizer, snack, or dessert, and it is especially popular around Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations.
Youtiao is one of the most popular breakfast foods in China, consisting of Chinese breadsticks that are fried in pairs and connected in the middle. The result is a puffy snack that is crispy on the exterior and tender on the interior. Youtiao dates back to the Song Dynasty when the leader Qin Gui, under the influence of his wife, executed a general named Yue Fei, who was loved by the people. As a sign of protest, a cook made a pair of breadsticks that were shaped to resemble human beings (the leader and his wife), and symbolically deep-fried them in hot oil. That is how youtiao got its nickname - you zha gui, literally translated to deep fried ghosts. Today, the snack is usually accompanied by hot soy milk, rice porridge, or a soup filled with pork, beef, or shrimp.
Khaja is a traditional Indian dessert consisting of flour, sugar, and ghee-based dough that is deep-fried in oil until golden and crispy. After the preparation, khaja is sometimes soaked in sugar syrup, depending on the regional variation of the recipe. This tasty dessert is one of the key dishes at numerous North Indian wedding feasts. There are many regional varieties of khaja, so khajas from Silao and Rajgir are characterized by their puffiness, while khajas of the coastal part of Andhra Pradesh are dry on the exterior and filled with sugar syrup on the inside. All of the varieties should have a wafery texture and melt in the mouth. There is also a special variety of khaja called belgrami which is not so sweet and is made from milk solids, sugar, and ghee.
This internationally known, decadent, and sugar-packed dessert is usually made with a mixture of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt, which is deep-fried and then bathed in syrup or honey. The origin of lokma fritters is ancient but often debated. It is presumed that they first appeared in Greece or Turkey, though some suggest Arabic origin. In some Middle Eastern and Levant countries, this dessert is known as luqaimat or luqmat al-qadi, which roughly translates as judge's mouthful. The deep-fried balls are usually covered with date syrup, honey, or flavored syrups, while some prefer them sprinkled with various seeds. They are also often flavored with saffron or cardamom.
Falling in the group of popular lumpia snacks, turon is the famous Filipino treat made with saba plantains and jackfruit. The fruit is sliced lengthwise, dusted in brown sugar, enclosed in thin wheat wrappers, then fried until golden and crispy. Like other lumpia varieties, turon was also developed from the Chinese spring rolls and represents one of the most common sweet versions of the dish. Before it is served, it is commonly drizzled with caramel or sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. It is usually sold by Filipino street vendors and enjoyed as a sweet snack or a satisfying dessert.