Samosa, has rightly earned the identity of being India’s first Fast Food. Having dominated the street food scene in India for decades now, it has spread in its various forms all over the country and has earned millions of followers spanning various corners of this country. In fact, with the migration and movement of people throughout the globe from India, this humble street food migrated along and has now become part of world cuisine.
While most of us are completely unaware of the true origin of this street food and consider this as a no-brainer that Samosa is as Indian as any other street food dishes of India, the knowledge of its real identity comes as a rude shock to us. Samosa is as outsider to Indian food culture as its stuffing inside of Potatoes and Chilies. While Potatoes were introduced to Indian Cuisine by Portuguese, Chilies that became an essential ingredient of our food culture and tradition came from South America where people have been cultivating and trading these for at least 6000 years. Similarly, Samosa that established itself as an indispensable part of Indian food came from far lands of Persia. I agree, I am getting ahead of myself, so allow me to neatly outline the history of this cone shaped savory pastry. This story begins thousands of years ago at the dawn of civilization, and thousands of miles away, far away from India in the Iranian plateau.
While the written references, do not make any mention of the customary triangle shape of samosa- as we know it now, the first mention of this occurs in the works of Persian historian Abolfazl Beyhaqi (995-1077) prior to 10th Century in Tarikh-e Beyhaghi. The work makes a mention of certain “sanbosag”, which was served as a snack in the courts of Ghaznavid empire- as a pastry filled with minced meat, nuts and dried fruits and fried till the it became crisp. Food historian Colleen Taylor Sen in her book Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India, states that the word sambusak may have come from the Arabic se which means three, referring to the three sides and ambos which is a kind of a bread. Read here
Samosa traveled through the Central Asia and Afghanistan before reaching the lands of India. En route, it traveled though Uzbekistan and became more of a peasant’s food. Nomadic Shepherds who would wander with their herds carried this triangle shaped pastries with them. However, the magnificence associated with the dish in Persia in form of its stuffing of nuts and dried food were replaced with minced lamb meat and onions. This replacement was essential to keep samosa within the ambit of poor peasants and shepherds.
By some accounts, sambusak or samosa was introduced to royal kitchens of India by the chefs who migrated from middle east and traveled to far lands of India in pursuit of better opportunities. Some other accounts attribute this introduction to merchants and traders who traveled to India for their trade and carried this triangle shaped pastry as a nibbling food.
The earliest mention of Samosa in Indian culinary landscape occurs in chronicles of legendary Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta in 14th century. In his works, he makes a mention of a meal in the court of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq and refers to samosa as sambusak– ‘A small pie stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachio, walnuts and spices’.
Once it arrived in India, it went through several forms of transformations that happened to suit the local ingredients, taste and food habits. Here’s a wonderful phrase from Pushpesh pant in an article about samosas that I came across. He defines Samosa as the ultimate “syncretic dish”.
Samosas in India has altered quite significantly replacing minced meat with Potatoes- an ingredient that was introduced to India by Portuguese invaders. Our local spices were added to the stuffing- Coriander, pepper, ginger etc. There must be hundreds of possible variations of Samosa served across the length and breadths of this vast country. Each state offering its own addition in Samosa. While in Punjab, cottage cheese is added to potato filling, Hyderabadi luqmi retains the minced meat. West Bengal and Orissa changed samosas identity and it came to be known as ‘Singhara’. Goan Samosa or chamuças is made with minced pork, chicken, or beef. Some modern fine dining restaurants that believe in constant inventiveness, have revamped the savory pastry by replacing the spicy and savory stuffing with a sweet filling of Chocolate and serve it as- Chocolate Samosa.
In all these different forms of samosa, a factor that has remained constant throughout is its ability of being an ice-breaker, a conversation starter. A family party or a religious function or a corporate meeting snack, irrespective of the occasion, Samosa would be on the menu of the event and any social gathering is unimaginable without Chai-Samosa. The best part of this humble pastry is that it can be shaped and refrigerated before the event. It can be fried and served when your guests arrive.
Follow the recipe and make this delicious Samosas for your next cocktail party. Share your feedback with us in comment section below.
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- 2 Cups=250gms Plain Flour
- 1-tsp Carom Seeds
- ¼ th Cup=50gms Ghee
- 3-medium sized=250 gms Potatoes-boiled in a pressure cooker
- ½ Cup=75 gms frozen Green Peas
- 1-inch Ginger root
- 5-6 Green Chilies
- ¼th Cup fresh Coriander leaves-finely chopped
- Cooking Oil
- 1-tsp Fennel Seeds-coarsely crushed
- 1-tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1-tsp Coriander Seeds-coarsely crushed
- ¼th-tsp Asafoetida Powder
- ½-tsp Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
- 1-tsp dry Coriander Powder
- 1-tsp Garam Masala Powder
- ½-tsp Dry Mango Powder
- ¼-tsp Chat Masala Powder
- ½-tsp Sugar
- 1-tbsp Cashewnuts (6-8)-chopped
- 1-tbsp Raisins-chopped
- We will knead a dough for Samosa. In a large plate, put Plain flour. Add Salt and carom seeds. Mix well. Now add ¼th cup Ghee. We will add lukewarm Ghee in the flour. The outer covering of Samosa can be made crispy or crumbly. If you add Ghee cover will be crumbly and adding Oil will make it crispy. We have added 50 gms Ghee for 250 gms Plain Flour. Remember this ratio of 5:1 between plain flour and Ghee. Rub the plain flour well between your palms. Rub the flour for 3-4 mins.
- After 3-4 mins, texture of flour must be like bread crumbs. I have taken ¾th cup of water. Adding water gradually, knead dough. We have kneaded a stiff dough using ½ Cup water. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 mins. Let's make the stuffing.
- We will make a coarse paste of Ginger and Green Chilies. You can use mortar-pestle or an electric grinder for making coarse paste. Coarse paste is now ready. Let's put a pan on heat.
- Heat 2-tbsp Oil in a Pan. Add Cumin Seeds and asafoetida powder. Add crushed fennel seeds and coriander seeds and fry for a min. Add frozen green peas and cook for 1-2 mins. If you are using fresh green peas you may have to cook longer (3-4 mins). Add crushed Ginger-Chili paste and cook for a min. Add dry red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt to taste. Cook masala. If masala gets dry, add 2-3 tbsp water and cook again. If you like your stuffing on spicier side, add some more chili powder. On other hand, if you are making this for children, you can reduce quantity of chili powder.
- We have cooked masala for 3-4 mins. Now, add Sugar. Sugar helps to balance the flavor of stuffing. Now, add coarsely crushed boiled Potatoes. Stir it in with the masala. Now add chopped cashewnuts and raisins.
- Add chat masala, dry mango powder and chopped coriander leaves. Mix all the ingredients well and cook for 2-3 mins. Stuffing is now ready. Remove from heat and allow it to cool down.
- Dough has been rested for 30 mins now. Let's roll the dough into samosas. We will spread a cloth. Take a flat board, a rolling pin and a knife. Dough has become softer. Divide it into 3 equal portions. Press and roll one portion to form a cylindrical shaped log. Cut this log into equal sized portion of dough. Roll into round shape balls.
- Keep remaining balls aside. Roll one and make it smooth to get rid of cracks, if any. Apply some Oil and with a rolling pin roll into oblong shape. Do not apply any flour while rolling. Use Oil instead. Roll into a oblong of even thickness.
- Take some water, stuffing and a knife. With a knife cut into 2 halves. Apply water on sides. We will seal the edges with water. Now stick along the straight line of semi-circle to form a cone-shaped Samosa. Put some stuffing in this pocket. Do not over-stuff. Apply water on edges. Now bring the opposite sides together to seal this Samosa. This completes our first Samosa. Let's make all samosa in a similar way.
- Before we go ahead and fry these samosa, here's an important tip worth sharing. Once you have shaped the samosas do not fry it immediately. Leave it aside uncovered for 10 mins. If you fry immediately, Samosas will form bubbles on the crust after frying due to moisture content. Leaving it aside for 10 mins will dry up the moisture and bubbles won't form after frying.
- We have made 8 Samosas and have kept it for 10 mins. Let's now fry these Samosas.
- Heat enough oil in a Pan for deep frying. Heat on high flame. Ensure you do not heat Oil till its smoking point. Reduce the heat and add samosas in Oil.
- Cook on low-medium heat as cooking outer cover on low-medium heat yields best results. Keep moving samosas around and cook from all sides. We have cooked Samosas for 10 mins on low heat. The crust is evenly browned and has no bubbles on it. Remove from pan.
- Samosas are now ready to be served. If we make small samosas, we can make 20-22 samosas. We have served Samosas with tomato ketchup. You can also enjoy it with Mint Chutney or Tamarind Chutney. As you can see the texture of crust is crumbly and stuffing is very delicious.
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