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Tried and tasted: Ever tried the Japani samosa? Head to this place

You can taste the Japani samosa at a small eatery called Manohar Dhaba in Old Delhi, between the Old Lajpat Rai Market and Moti Cinema on Diwan Hall Road.

more lifestyle Updated: Aug 06, 2017 10:05 IST
Manohar Dhaba sells other kinds of snacks, too, but is famous for its Japani samosa.
Manohar Dhaba sells other kinds of snacks, too, but is famous for its Japani samosa.

A Japani samosa? Did you hear that right? Or did I mean some kind a Japanese tempura?

Yes, we are talking about a Japani samosa, but it is in fact neither Japanese, nor really a samosa. Yet that’s the name of this roadside dish.

I was introduced to this dish many years ago by a good friend. It’s to be found in a small eatery called Manohar Dhaba in Old Delhi, between the Old Lajpat Rai Market and Moti Cinema on Diwan Hall Road. The eatery was started in Lahore in 1924, much before the partition, and when it moved to Delhi, the family opened this little food stall in 1949. There are some tables and chairs for people to sit and eat, or you can carry your stuff home.

Manohar Dhaba sells other kinds of snacks, too, but is famous for its Japani samosa. That’s why their board adds, right under the name, this bit of information: Japani samosey waley. I once found another eatery in Old Delhi (in Kucha Ghasiram) selling similar samosas, but I fear it no longer exists.

Now let me tell you what a Japani samosa is all about. It’s actually a kind of a puff pastry or a layered samosa. Like a samosa, it’s filled with potatoes and served with chholey.

The pastry of the samosa gives it a crunchy bite, and the spicy chholey complements the mild taste of the puff pastry. The outer casing is crisp and flaky, while the potatoes inside are lightly spiced. The samosa comes with an interesting pickle prepared with boiled bottle gourd.

No one really knows why they are called Japani samosas. When I first wrote about it, I got a call from someone in the Japanese embassy in Delhi who wanted to know more about the street snack that had taken its name from a country far away.

Umesh, the owner, told me that his grandfather gave the dish its name when he started his business, and nobody knows why. Some old-timers believe that perhaps it was named after the Japanese during the Second World War, because that’s when the Delhi shop had opened. But Umesh believes the samosa was being sold in Lahore, and that was much before the war.

In any case, the name has stuck – and it certainly adds a certain something to the dish.

We are so fond of samosas that we are always willing to embrace the different varieties that you get across India. In some parts of Old Delhi, you will find samosas stuffed with minced meat or with moong dal. In Bengal, singaras, or samosas, are often filled with small florets of cauliflower, potatoes and peanuts.

Now, I believe, you even get samosas stuffed with boiled noodles. I suppose someone will soon call it a Cheeni samosa.

Recipe: Moong dal samosa

Ingredients:

* 1 ½ cup flour

* 1/3rd cup ghee

* ½ cup moong dal

* 2tbsp oil

* 1tsp coriander powder

* 2 or 3 chopped green chillies

* 1 tbsp chopped ginger

* A pinch of red chilli powder

* 1tsp mango powder

* ½ tsp cumin powder

* Salt to taste

* Oil for frying

Method

Soak the dal in water for four hours. Drain out the water. Mix the moong dal with green chillies and ginger, and grind to a paste. Heat the oil. Add the cumin powder. Add the dal paste. On low heat, stir for a while. Add the coriander powder, red chilli, mango powder and salt. When the dal turns brown and is dry, switch off the heat.

Mix the maida with ghee and salt. Put lukewarm water and knead it. Take a ball of the dough, roll it into a round shape, cut it into two. Take one half and join the ends of the straight line with drops of water, to shape it like a cone. Fill it with dal. Now seal the flap at the bottom of the pouch with water. Fry in hot oil and serve with ketchup or chutney.

(Rahul Verma has been writing on food for over 25 years now. And, after all these years, he has come to the conclusion that the more he writes, the more there is left to be written)

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