Travelling Foodie: Desi Eats Abroad

Travelling Foodie: Desi Eats Abroad

Desi Globetrotter's Parm Johal discovers parallels between Arabic and Indian food along her travels. Photos courtesy of Parm Johal.

The more I travel the more similarities I see between cultures. During my trip to Europe and Turkey this fall, I came across traditional Arabic desserts, snacks and drinks that looked and tasted very much like their Indian counterparts. Of course, with India’s ancient history with the Mughal empire, a crossover was bound to happen.

Here is Desi Globetrotter’s guide to decoding the names behind these epicurean delights:

Zlabias = Jalebis 

On my last day in Paris, I came across a small Tunisian bakery in the Latin Quarter. These twisted, bright orange, syrupy sweets in the window display caught my eye. Jalebis have been traced back to India, but have made their way to the Middle East and North Africa during the Muslim rule. According to Wikipedia, “Jalebi became Zalebi as Z is more common in middle-eastern languages. In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, this sweet is known as Zlebia or Zlabia.”

Learning about India and Tunisia…in Paris. Now that’s world education.

Kemal Pasha = Gulab Jamuns

While travelling near Ephesus and Fethiye in Turkey, I had a chance to try these golden, round and spongy sweets. Indian gulab jamuns are flavored with rose water and made with dough and syrup. Turkish Kemal Pasha tastes very similar, but with the addition of cheese added to the recipe. Our hotel served a platter of these coconut sprinkled Kemal Pasha during dinner and I couldn’t help but reach for a serving of two!

Gözleme = Paratha 

This iconic savoury flatbread, sold at roadside ‘dhabas’ in India to bus stops and street stands in Turkey, comes grilled, rolled, and stuffed with veg and non-veg options. From potato to spinach to cheese and minced meat, Turkish Gözleme reminded me of my childhood road trips with my parents packing rolled up Aloo Parathas for the family. This time I was sitting with my husband at a bus stop in Kas, Turkey delighted to find the similarities between Turkish and Indian food.

Ayran = Lassi

Similar to lassi, this milky, salty and throat soothing yogurt drink was my best friend in Turkey while suffering from a cold. Ayran is sold everywhere in Turkey from packaged options in supermarkets and fast food joints to freshly made drinks at restaurants. Ayran is even available ‘on tap’ as seen here in Kas, Turkey.

Desiglobetrotter is a new travel blogazine with a focus on independent world travel through a South Asian lens. For destination guides, travel stories, tips and travel features, please visit

Parm Johal - founder of travel blog

About Parm Johal

Parm is a travel junkie living in Vancouver and is the Editor-in-Chief of, a travel blog that connects South Asians passionate about independent world travel. Parm’s favourite travel moments include backpacking solo in Spain and Portugal, spending a night in the Saharan desert gazing up at the stars, exploring the streets of Mumbai, working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean with over a 1000 crew members from around the world and experiencing the magic of travel with her husband in Thailand.