As soon as I arrive in Islamabad, Pakistan to visit my darling grandmother, I grab my youngest uncle and demand he take me across the street to Melody Market. Other women head to buy cloth or visit the tailor, but my uncle always takes me in the opposite direction.
Through the main market, down a little alley is a wonderful little dessert shop, my favorite place to get my favorite Pakistani dessert – jalaibi. As I enter the alley, the smell of sweetness perfumes the air. We’re close. We’re headed to a shop called Bengali Rasgulla and Jalaibi.
The owner of the shop and artist of countless sweet delicacies is a Bengali man whose family stayed in Pakistan after its separation with Bangladesh in 1971. As we arrive, the Jalaibi Vaala (The Jalaibi Maker) is piping the thin, creamy jalaibi batter into a vat of hot oil in long whirling strips. He fries it until crisp and immediately submerges it into a pot of sugar syrup. The final result is a light, ooey-gooey, severely sweet spiral of bright orange.
He gives me a pound of jalaibi wrapped in several bags made out of newspaper. The sunny, bright sweetmeat is calling me….I can’t resist! I grab one, hot and crisp, and bite into it, not noticing the sugar syrup rapidly drenching my chin and fingers. I have to capture this moment; I wipe enough syrup from my fingers to snap this shot. A master at his craft, the Jalaibi Vaala stares into my lens as the next batch of fresh jalaibi waits to delight another addict.