There is nothing more fulfilling on a rainy day as a steaming hot, crisp samosa dipped in sour imli chutney, accompanied by a glass of chai. On other days, it makes for the perfect tea time or mid-day bite. And kids love it as much as the adults. No wonder then that this triangular piece of fried stuffed pastry has become as ubiquitous as bread and butter.
In fact, India cannot lay claim to this snack.
What we know as samosa was introduced to us by Central Asian traders in the 13th or 14th century. In fact, the word itself can be traced back to the Persian word ‘sanbosag’. Many other countries have a variation of this root word for their version of the samosa. Hence, there is the crescent-shaped sanbusak or sanbusaj in Arab countries, sambosa in Afghanistan, samsa in Turkish speaking nations, and sambusa in parts of Iran.
There are as many variations of samosa as there are halwai shops. They can be large or tiny, fried or baked, sweet or savoury. And they come with a variety of fillings and accompaniments— imli, pudina or raw mango chutney, hot chholey, aloo subzi, sweet curd and even tomato ketchup. In Delhi, the most common ones are the large, crispy variety, with a stuffing of boiled potatoes, peas and cumin.
Others have fresh pomegranate, paneer, coriander, onion and even raisons added to them. Then there are cauliflower samosas, spicy keema samosas and less commonly, fish samosas. You’ll find some of the best samosas in the bylanes of Old Delhi. Try the delicious keema-stuffed ones at Jama Masjid, the pista samosa at Ghantewala Confectioners, Chandni Chowk; and the super-sized ones at Delite Cinema's cafetaria.
Then there’s the interestingly-named Manohar’s Japani Samosa — there’s nothing remotely japani about it, but what they serve is as good as it comes. Other popular shops include Malik Sweets (near Hanuman Mandir, Connaught Place); the Nathu’s chain; Frontier Samosa Shop on Panchkuian Road, Bengali Sweet House in Bengali Market and the Haldiram’s chain (which sells cocktail samosas). You’d also do well to try the unique boiled moong dal samosas at a small, unnamed sweet shop in Multani Dhanda, Paharganj, and the green pea samosas at CR Park’s famous Annapurna Sweets.
From place to place
Many states have a version of this triangular snack. Here are a few of them:
Bengal: Bengal calls its samosa ‘shingara’. Unlike in North India, these are made of light pastry. The savoury version has a potato, peas and diced almond stuffing, while the sweet version is filled with khoya and dipped in sugar syrup.
Ahmedabad: The state is known for its miniature samosas stuffed with spicy minced meat.
Hyderabad: Hyderabad’s version of samosa is known as the lukhmi. It is square shaped with mince filling.
Bihar: Lalu land dishes out spicy samosas with a thick pastry and a filling of potatoes, ginger and loads of chilli.
Goa: Goa’s colonial past in the chamuça, which has a beef or pork filling. The same is found in Portugal.
Himachal Pradesh: A small village near Simour district recently starting producing ‘herbal’ samosas with stuffings like mushroom, cheese, etc. Unfortunately, these are meant purely for export to America!
Whatever your choice of variant, enjoy your samosa hot and down it with a cuppa. It is certainly an
appetiser worth drooling over.