Samosas: Fried Indian Vegetable Pastries

samosa

In India, street pushcarts and roadside vendors sell their delicious samosas to passersby who enjoy immediate gratification from these satisfying snacks. Samosas are fried, triangular pastries that may be filled with vegetables or meat or a combination of both. In the United States, these delicious packages are most often served as appetizers in East Indian restaurants.

Are you a samosa lover?
Have you ever wondered about the origins of this triangular piece of magic?
Would you like to know if the samosa is as ubiquitous in countries outside India?
Does it go by a different name in different parts of the world?
What does a samosa taste like in Korea or say in Peru?

If you are interested in learning more about the three cornered piece of magic known as the SAMOSA then read on ………..

The Origin

The SAMOSA probably traveled to India along ancient trade routes from Central Asia. Small, crisp mince-filled triangles that were easy to make around the campfire during night halts, then conveniently packed into saddlebags as snacks for the next day’s journey. According to the “The Oxford Companion to Food” the Indian samosa is merely the best known of an entire family of stuffed pastries or dumplings popular from Egypt and Zanzibar to Central Asia and West China. Arab cookery books of the 10th and 13th Centuries refer to the pastries as sanbusak (the pronunciation still current in Egypt, Syria, & Lebanon), sanbusaq or sanbusaj, all reflecting the early medieval form of the Persian word: sanbosag. Claudia Roden (1968) quotes a poem by Ishaq ibn Ibrahim-al-Mausili (9th Century) praising the sanbusaj.

By the early 14th Century, it was not only a part of Indian cuisine but also food fit for a king. Amir Khusrao, prolific poet of Delhi royalty, observed in 1300 that the royal set seemed partial to the “samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on”. In 1334, the renowned traveler Ibn Battuta wrote about the sambusak: “minced meat cooked with almonds, pistachios, onions and spices placed inside a thin envelop of wheat and deep-fried in ghee”. And the samosa obtained a royal stamp with its inclusion in the Ain-i-Akbari which declared that among dishes cooked with wheat there is the qutab, “which the people of Hind called the sanbusa”.

The current day samosas are small, crispy, flaky pastries that are usually deep-fried. They are stuffed with an assortment of fillings ranging from minced meat with herbs and spices to vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes. In Bengal one finds samosas filled with sweetened reduced milk that go straight from the frying pan to a syrup wash. But whatever the filling, Samosas are a treasured snack—the perfect companion to a cup of chai (Tea).

The Avatars

According to Webster’s, a samosa is, “a small pastry turnover of Indian origin filled with a spicy meat or vegetable mixture as of potatoes and peas.” Originating in Central Asia it is found in numerous shapes and variations all over the world. The major samosa avatars that weave their magic over taste buds the world over are……

Samsa

In the Turkish-speaking nations where it is called samsa (& variants) it is made both in half-moon shapes and triangles. Sedentary Turkish people such as the Uzbeks and in Turkey itself, people usually bake their samsas, but nomads such as the Kazakhs fry them. Occasionally, samsas will be steamed, particularly in Turkmenistan.

In Central Asia the versions made with rough puff pastry (waraqi samsa, sambusai varaqi) are filled with meat. Those made with plain dough (leavened or unleavened) maybe filled either with meat or fillings such as diced pumpkin, chickpeas, herbs, wild greens, fried onions, mushrooms or dried tomatoes.

Sanbusak / Sambusa

Extolled in poems recited in the courts of Abassid Caliphs in 16th century Baghdad, these savory pastries are particularly popular in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan & Syria. Traditional sanbusak are shaped like half moons and sprinkled with sesame seeds, usually with edges crimped or marked with fingernails.

The usual Arab sanbusak is filled with meat, onions, & perhaps nuts or raisins, but Sanbusak bil Loz is stuffed with a mixture of ground almonds, sugar and rose or orange blossom water. In Iraq and Arabia dates are also a common filling. These pastries were still made in Iran as late as the 16th Century, but they have disappeared from most of the country today, surviving only in certain provinces: e.g. the triangular walnut-filled sambusas made in Larestan. However the Iranians of Central Asia, the Tajiks, still make a wide-variety of sambusas including round, rectangular and small almond shaped ones. In Afghanistan, where the name is sambosa, it is made both in half-moon shapes and triangles. The filling is traditionally ground meat with herbs and spices although halva and raisins are often used as well.

Samosa

The samosa is arguably the most enduring of Indian snacks. Traditionally samosas in India have triangular or conical shapes. Savory samosas are usually served with a chutney of some sorts. It is inevitably encountered in chaat shops across the land and there are some halwais who take greater pride in their samosa than anything else.

In fact, it is in the lanes and by-lanes of cities and towns, village and highway chai-shops along the length and breadth of India, that one can truly appreciate the versatility of the samosa. There are the large, somewhat plump North Indian variety stuffed with potatoes, pomegranate and raisins, the sweetness of the latter off-set by the characterful pungency of cumin. In the narrow allies of Ahmedabad’s Karanj area, shops like “Bera Samosa” do a brisk business from the spicy mince-filled miniature triangles being fried in enormous woks. The Bihari mithaiwala has his own version with a thick-cased variety filled with ginger-seasoned potatoes livened up by chopped green chilli. The Bengali shingara is made with a light puff-pastry that melts away to release the flavors of subtly seasoned potatoes or cauliflower.

Samosa Recipe No. 1

Ingredients:

For pastry:
• 2 cups flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoon oil
• 6 tablespoon water

For potato stuffing:
• 5 medium potatoes
• 4 tablespoon oil
• 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 cup green peas
• 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
• 1 hot green chili (finely chopped)
• 3 tablespoon green coriander (cilantro), chopped
• 1.5 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon garam masala
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

Method

• Mix flour and salt in a bowl.
• Add 4 tablespoons oil and rub until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add about 6 tablespoons water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth.
• Rub dough with oil. Cover it and set aside for 30 minutes or longer.

Potato stuffing for Samosa
• Boil, cool and peel the potatoes. Dice it into 1/4 inch size.
• Heat 4 tablespoons oil in karahi or wok in medium flame.
• Lower the heat and carefully put the onion. Stir fry until golden brown in medium heat.
• Add peas, ginger, green chili, and fresh coriander (cilantro). Add diced potatoes, salt and all spices.
• Mix and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Do not forget to stir while cooking.

Making Samosa
• Knead the dough again. Divide it into about 10 balls.
• Roll it into flat round shape with about 5 inch diameter.
• Cut it into half. Make the half into a cone by sticking seam together with a little water.
• Fill the cone with about 2.5 tablespoons of the potato mixture.
• Stick the top of the cone together with a little water. The seam should be about 1/4 inch (5 mm) wide.
• Repeat this again.

Cooking Samosa
• Heat about 2 inches of oil for deep frying over a medium-low flame. (You may use a wok, Indian karhai or any other utensil you seem fit)
• When the oil is hot, carefully put in as many samosas as it fits. Fry slowly, turning the samosas until they are golden brown and crisp.
• Drain excess oil and serve hot.

Samosa Recipe No. 2

Ingredients:

• 4 large white potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
• 1/2 cup boiled and drained green peas
• 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 tsp amchoor(mango powder)
• 1 tsp red chilli powder
• 1/2 tsp saunf(fennel)powder
• 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
• 1 tablespoon chopped cashew nuts
• Salt to taste
• 3 cups maida(all purpose flour)
• 1/2 cup maida, for rolling out
• 1 tablespoon heated ghee or oil
• Oil for deep frying the samosas
• 1 tablespoon ghee(clarified butter) for the stuffing
• 1 small bowl of cold water

Method

• Heat the ghee for the stuffing and add the cumin seeds and
cashew nuts.
• When the seeds splutter add the dry powders and fry for 10
seconds.
• Add the mashed potatoes and green peas and mix well.
Mix in salt to taste.
• Fry on a low flame for about 10 minutes.
Set aside.
• Prepare the cover for the samosa by combining
the maida, hot ghee or oil and salt to taste.
• Add enough water and knead the dough.
• Set aside for about 10 minutes.
• Divide the dough into round portions.
• Take each portion and coat it with some maida so that
it does not stick to your hands.
• Roll it into a not too thin perfect round.
• With a pizza cutter, make 2 semi circles with the round.
• Take one half circle. Dip your index finger into the cold water
and apply it to the straight edge of the semi circle.
• Now hold the semicircle in your hand.
• Fold the straight edge, bringing together the watered edges.
• Seal the watered edges.
• You should now have a small triangular maida pocket.
• Stuff it with the potato mixture and now water-seal the
upper edges.
• Repeat for the rest of the dough.
• Deep fry in oil till golden brown and serve
with mint chutney.
• Do not overheat the oil, since this will cook only the
outer maida covering and the inner layer will remain
uncooked even if the samosa has turned dark brown
on the outside.

Coriander Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

• Coriander leaves 1 bunch
• Coconut 3 cups
• Green chillies 10-12 (as per your taste)
• Asafoetida (hing) 1/4 tsp.
• Lemon 1 medium size
• Salt as per the taste.

Method:

• Clean the coriander leaves and chop them and keep it aside.
• In a blender grind these coriander leaves, coconut, chillies, asafoetida and salt with limited amount of water so that the paste remains in the thick consistency.
• Check the taste of chutney and add chillies and salt as you want.
• Squeeze lemon juice in the chutney and refrigerate it.

Note: Lemon juice is added instead of tamarind because the lemon will leave the chutney stay longer time leaving it fresh. You can refrigerate this chutney and when you want to have it you can take out from the refrigerator before half-an-hour or an hour. The other method is that you can put in the microwave for 50 sec. or a min. This goes very well with Sandwiches, Dosa, Idli, Chapatti and also with Curd-rice or as a side dish.

Tamarind and Date Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

• 14 ounces tamarind pulp
• 1 pound pitted dates
• 2 cups sugar, divided
• 6 cups water, plus 4 cups

Method:
In a large saucepan, combine the tamarind pulp, dates, 1 cup sugar, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. Cook mixture until tamarind paste has dissolved into the water, about 1 hour, stirring every now and then.

Pass mixture through a food mill. Discard the pulp. Pass the puree through a chinois or fine strainer. Return the puree to the saucepan. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Reduce until thickened. Transfer to a non-reactive container and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until needed.