Raising my toes at the age of three to catch a glimpse of what was causing such happy commotion at the dinner table, is my earliest memory of the samosa. Being an only child in the group, I was disadvantaged.
Failing to catch a glimpse, I ran to my mom. She offered a piece. With innate childhood caution, I tasted the crust. A minute later, my mouth opened.
In India, samosas are everywhere. From vendors to shops, school and college canteens to every M.G. Road in every Indian city. People happily walk through winding lanes or brave traffic to reach that special dukaan or halwai, selling delectable samosas. Apart from Bikaneris and Agrawals, shops with curious and eclectic names like ‘kunnu or Baku ke samose’, exist.
Mostly, the latter’s an unpretentious shop with a kadhai full of samosas bobbing in hot oil. Triangles fried in the hue of the Tuscan sun are scooped up with a large perforated ladle.
Where Did Our Samosa Come From?
How do you describe the taste of a samosa?
Piercing the outer shell, you inhale the aroma and pause. You eat a piece, as the blended taste of brittle crust and soft potatoes laced with caraway, coriander and chillies dissolves. Words rendered redundant, your nod communicates the experience. You can’t stop after eating one – and after having two, your stomach's full; but your heart craves more and you commit more sins of guilty eating.
Why is the samosa loved so much? I’ve often thought that the secret lies in its uncanny ability to lift one’s mood. Nothing is more heartening and as ludicrously irresistible than a hot samosa, any day.
The samosa didn’t originate in India, however – no matter how well settled it seems. Historians believe that the samosa originated in the pre-10th century Central Asia as ‘samsa’. It landed in India with Middle Eastern chefs and merchants through Central and South Asian trade routes between the 13th and 14th centuries. Ease of cooking it over a campfire during night halts, made it a favourite among weary travellers. Braving cold winds and sharing travel tales – while relishing samosas – must have been magical!
The authentic samosa is fastidious and partial to potatoes. Local cousins are adaptable and accept other fillings. (A shop in our neighbourhood sells piquant Maggi samosas!)
My grandmother always insisted on tempering the filling with shahi jeera soaked in lemon juice for a sour tang. Resting the stuffing for 30 minutes lets spices and potatoes become good friends and assimilate individual traits.
Samosa, a ‘bad guy’ is blamed for diet bloopers, weight gain, cholesterol – for pretty much everything and anything; however, it is still the King of Indian street food, loved by toddlers to grandpas. It’s braved the invasions of pizzas and pastas and held on to its post, so give it some credit, won’t you?
For the crust:
3 cups flour (1 cup wheat flour + 2 cups maida)
Salt to taste
3 tbsp of melted ghee
1 tsp carom seeds
6- 9 tbsp of water (more if required)
Oil for frying
4 boiled, mashed potatoes
1 cup boiled peas
1 tsp Shahi jeera (caraway seeds) soaked in lemon juice
1 tsp anardana powder or amchur
1.5 tsp coarsely grounded coriander seeds
1 tsp ginger grated
2 green chillies cut in pieces
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp oil for tempering
Salt to taste
Sift flours with salt
Add carom seeds
Knead soft dough
Cover for 30 minutes
Preparing the Filling
Add coriander seeds
Add shahi jeera, green chillies and ginger, sauté for 2 minutes
Add red chilli powder, turmeric, anardana/amchur and salt
Add peas, mashed potatoes, stir
Mix and cook
Remove from heat and cool
Divide the dough into equal pieces
Make a smooth ball and roll with a rolling pin
Cut the circle diametrically with a knife
Make a cone by sealing the edges with water
Fill the potato mixture and seal
Prepare all and cover with a wet napkin
Add a small piece of dough. If it rises to the surface, the oil is ready
Slide 2 or 3 samosas and lower the heat
Fry until golden
Set the flame high before adding the next batch and lower it while frying
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)
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