Most savored Pakistani snack!
From being sold on every street corner, roadside shacks, bakery, café to being prepared at home for teatime – sham ke chai, “Samosas” are one of the most delicious and savored snacks in Pakistan. They are also dearly missed by those living outside the country.
History behind the name – Samosa
Origins of the modern savory aloo samosa lie in the 10th – 16th century. Samosa has been originally adapted from “Samsa” which means pyramid. They were created centuries ago in Central Asia. Samsa — a traditional triangular pastry made with buttery and flaky pastry dough and wrapped around spicy & flavorful minced beef or lamb meat, was baked to golden perfection.
We – the people of subcontinent – adopted samsa to match our taste palettes. We welcomed it in our gallery of snacks in a way that it never felt alien to us. We embraced it and made it a part of our cultural identity.
There are many references linking its origin to the Persian word “Sambusa”, which means triangle.
Journey from Silk Route to Subcontinent
Let us now take a journey through time and follow the evolution of samosa. We will also discuss how aloo (potatoes) came to the sub-continent to eventually become a part of the samosa story.
- In the 10th century, the middle eastern Muslim travelers and merchants would cook mince-filled triangles over camp fire and eat them as snacks during travel. Many historians wrote accounts of these travelers bringing stuffed triangle pastries in their bags to snack on during travel.
- In the 14th century, Ibn-e-Batuta – a Moroccan traveler – visited the sub-continent. He narrated about the magnificent feasts and banquets of the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi at that time. In his books, he explained the ingredients of the “sambusak” – a triangular pastry stuffed with spicy minced meat, almonds, pistachios and walnuts, wrapped inside a thin envelop of wheat and deep-fried in ghee. It would be served as an appetizer before the main course – ‘pulao’.
- During the 16th century, the royal cooks and chefs of the Mughal empire who had roots in the Persian cuisine, introduced these savory pastries to the Emperors. Samosa is marked as one of the legendary nine gems of Akbar’s court, in the classic “Ain – i – Akbari” by one of his wazirs. The famous royal poet, Amir Khusro shared that the emperors of delhi greatly savored samosas. Clearly, after having earned the blessings of the Mughal royalty, the snack gained immense popularity among locals and street food enthusiasts.
Does potato really belong to the Subcontinent?
I was not even aware of the answer to this question until I watched the Netflix documentary Raja, Rasoi Aur Anya Kahaniyaan, which explained very well the origins and inclusion of the immigrant potatoes in our sub-continent food stage.
Portuguese travelers introduced a root vegetable, “Batata” to the soil of subcontinent. The journey of batata to potato, brought about nothing less than a revolution to the cuisine in the subcontinent. It transformed our breakfast, lunch and dinner and fiercely overtook the meat dishes in popularity.
Samosa is Love
The ever-famous meat filled “Samsa” or “Sambusak” is no longer eaten with pulao. In the sub-continent, it is replaced by our modern Aloo Samosa and is enjoyed with tomato ketchup or chutney.
The samosa has lived in the hearts of people over centuries, hence leading to endless variations and adaptations.
Bisma Tirmizi, a famous freelancer journalist shared in her article a reference to “The Oxford Companion To Food” by Alan Davidson. “The Indian [subcontinent] 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 and Lebanon), sanbusaq or sanbusaj, all reflecting the early medieval form of the Persian word sanbosag, though originally it was named samsa, after the triangular pyramids of Central Asia.“
This sums it all!!
I leave you here you a delicious recipe of Aloo samosa to enjoy with today’s chai.
Pakistani Bazar walay Aloo Samosay
- Flour ( Maida ) – 1 cup
- Salt – 1/2 teaspoon or adjust to taste
- Carom seeds( Ajwain ) – 1 tablespoon
- Ghee – 2 tablespoons
- Cold water as required to knead the dough
- Boiled Potatoes ( aloo) – 2 large
- Ginger – 1 inch, finely chopped
- Fennel seeds (sanuf) – 1/2 teaspoon, roasted and grinded
- Cumin (zeera) – 3/4 teaspoon, roasted and grinded
- Corinader seeds ( dhaniya ) – 3/4 teaspoon, roasted and grinded
- Red chili flakes – 1/4 teaspoon or to taste
- Black pepper – 3/4 teaspoon freshly crushed
- Salt – to taste
- Ghee – 1 tablespoon
- Tumeric – 1/8 teaspoon ( optional)
- Amchur powder or Anar dana grinded – 1/2 teaspoon ( optional )
- Green chilies – 3, finely chopped ( optional)
Dough (The Samosa Patie)
- In a bowl add flour, salt, carom seeds, ghee. Mix everything together until it resembles bread crumb texture.
- Add cold water and knead a tight dough. Knead the dough well so the gluten is developed in the dough and it should not be soft.
- Cover and keep aside for resting at least for 15-20 minutes. Resting is must.
- Firstly dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds.
- Transfer them into a motor-pastel, crush them coarsely and keep aside for further use.
- Boil and peel the potato skin, coarsely mash them, keep them little chunky ( thats how i like my filling.
- Season the potatoes with freshly crushed blackpepper and salt.
- In a pan, add ghee and sautee ginger until aromatic and slighly brown.
- Add red chilli powder, turmeric (optional) and potatoes mix. Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat so the potatoes are light charred.
- Remove from flame, add fennel, cumin and corinader powder and optional anar dana or amchur powder. Mix everything nicely and set side until completely cool.
Assembly line of Samosa
- Make small portions of the dough, make small round perah and roll it thin in an oval shape.
- Cut in from the centre into half. The dough shrinks back a lit once it is cut. Roll out the half portions of dough again making sure the edges are evenly thin, as rolled.
- Take one half of the dough and make a cone shape by folding the ends of the stright side towards the circular end. (Consider this as triangle, the staright ends are the folding ends making the cone end and the circular side is the sealing side making the two ends of the triangle)
- Stick or press the sides from inside of the cone too using wet hands to secure the contact.
- Add the pototo filling inside the cone opening.
- Apply water on the open ends (circular) of the cone and fold it towards you. Keep it down. Give it a gentle pinch and press on the edges so it holds the shape of a samosa and it can stand on its own. A small pleat is also made at the back of the samosa so it holds a perfect standing shape. Do the same for all samosas. The recipe will yield 12- 15 samosas.
- Heat oil in a karhai on medium heat and fry the samosas in it until golden brown from all sides. If the oil is heated properly the samosa filling will not absorb unnecessary oil.
- Serve hot with tomato ketchup.
Bake or Air Frying the Samosa
- For baking the samosas, preheat the oven at 350 F.Brush oil generously on the samoas and bake for 25 -30 mins or until golden from all sides, flip sides after 15 minutes.
- For air fryer, apply more than usual oil spray to the samoas. Airfry at 350 F for 20 mins. Flip sides and keep checking frying until golden from all sides.