Today, I am featuring samosa, this little fried snack, which is an institution in India.
What is a samosa?
A samosa consists of a fried dough, traditionally filled with vegetables (peas, potatoes, carrots and a lot of spices). There are several versions but the vegetable samosa is the most common version. However, you will also find meat samosas, chicken samosas, fish samosas or seafood samosas.
In India, people say that if the word samosa does not activate your hypothalamus, it is because you are not a gourmet!
The term samosa comes from the Persian سنبوساگ, sanbosag, which means “crescent” and which surely refers to the original form of samosa which has traveled a lot and changed shape with each country.
Samosa is a popular dish in many parts of the world. It traveled throughout the Orient and especially on the eastern shores of the Indian Ocean, thanks to the expatriation of Indian workers in the nineteenth century.
Samosas around the world
You will find samosas under several names, even though they are quite similar, among which:
Samosas are therefore widespread in India and South-East Asia, in the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa. The recipe varies, especially with regard to the filling, which may consist only of vegetables, meat, cheese, or legumes, depending on the areas where they are prepared.
What are the different versions of samosas around the world?
Meat-filled samosas are common in Pakistan. They are fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. They are served hot, accompanied by yoghurt, chutney, chopped onions, cilantro and chāt masālā, a mixture of spices (dried mango, caraway, black salt called kala namak, coriander, ginger, chili pepper, asafoetida).
Samosas from Karachi are famous for their very spicy taste, while those from Faisalabad are famous for their large size. They are eaten with chutney and onion salad. A local variety from Karachi, kagazi samosa, is prepared with a thin dough that is very crisp.
In Andhra Pradesh, in the south of India, you can taste lukhmi. It’s a smaller version, with a thicker dough and a minced meat filling.
In Indonesia, the local equivalent of samosa is called pastel, and it is usually served with eggs, ground beef or chicken.
Samosa has been adapted to local cooking habits. In Reunion, for example, cheese samoussa competes with meat samoussas. The recipe was developed in the 1990s by a specialist from Saint-Denis, who also offers variations with shark or pineapple.
But this little fried triangle has traveled quite a lot, undergoing some modifications.
For example, in Morocco, samosas are called briouates and can be triangular or cylindrical. They are either sweetened with various nuts or almonds, or savory and the variety of fillings, which depends on the region and local ingredients, is quite large. In the savory version, poultry liver and beef are widely used.
In Goa and Portugal, chamuças are usually filled with chicken, beef, pork, lamb or vegetables. They are also found in the former Portuguese colonies: Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola, and Mozambique.
Samosas are also a staple food in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia), while in Djibouti they are stuffed with beef while in Somalia, lamb and beef are mixed.
In Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, samosas are almost always baked instead of fried. The dough for this baked samosa recipe may be a shortcrust or flaky dough. They are most commonly stuffed with lamb or mutton. Stuffing with beef, chicken or cheese is also common among street vendors.
Samosa also has a close cousin in China: the delicious spring roll.
What is the origin of samosa?
Samosa has been a popular food of the Indian subcontinent for centuries. It is assumed that it comes from Central Asia before the 10th century.
In the eleventh century, the Iranian historian Abul-Fazl Bayhaqi mentions it in his book Tarikh-e Beyhaghi (History of Beyhaghi) in the Old Persian Empire.
Samosa was introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 13th and 14th centuries by traders from Central Asia. Documents written around 1300 by Amir Khusrau, royal poet of the Sultanate of Delhi, were found. They report that “princes and nobles enjoy samosas prepared with meat, ghee and onions”.
Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan writer and explorer of the 14th century, describes a meal from the court of Muhammad ibn Tughlûq, Sultan of Delhi, where “samushak or sambusak, small pies filled with minced meat, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and spices, are served before the third dish”.
Ain-i-Akbari, a book by Abul al-Fazi, historian of the Mughal court (Indian subcontinent) of the sixteenth century, mentions the recipe of the qutab, an Azerbaijani turnover, and says: “The people of Hindustan call it sanbúsah “.
What is maida flour?
I urge you to prepare these samosas with maida flour. You’ll find it in any Indian or Pakistani supermarket. It’s really not a rare or hard to find ingredient.
Maida is a variety of fine grain wheat flour. It is flour that is refined, ground and bleached. It has a slightly sweet taste.
Maida comes from the same Persian word which means “fine”. It contains at least 7% gluten and therefore a large amount of two proteins, called glutenin and gliadin, which give birth to the famous gluten as explained here.
Maida is used, for example, for the preparation of traditional Indian breads such as naan or paratha. This flour is also used in all the kitchens in Southeast Asia and Central Asia.
In India, 30% of the population follows a vegetarian diet. If you think that vegetarian dishes are unappetizing and not very tasty, think again and quickly prepare this recipe of vegetarian Indian samosas!
What is samosa chaat?
If you really like this Indian samosa recipe, you also need to try samosa chaat. It is popular snack and street food in India. It consists of a crushed vegetarian samosa that is then topped with channa (chickpeas), yoghurt, sweet and tangy chutneys and some fine sev (gram flour vermicelli).
How to make samosa
The vegetable samosa recipe takes time but it is relatively easy. First, you make the dough and set it aside. Meanwhile, you prepare the filling by frying the onions with the spices and vegetables including peas, carrots and mashed potatoes.
You then assemble all the samosas by filling triangles of dough. And you finally deep-fry them. They are best served hot, so if they are not consumed immediately, then reheat them by deep-frying them a second time right before eating. For a baked samosa recipe version, you can also brush them with a little oil before baking them in the oven.
Exotic and exciting in every respect, from colors and smells to spices and flavors, played by the combination of fruits and vegetables or legumes, Indian cuisine is really special and very intriguing. These very traditional vegetable samosas were just delicious!
- 1 lb maida (or all-purpose flour)
- 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or rapeseed oil
- ¾ cup water , more or less
- 2 tablespoons lassi (or yogurt)
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Oil (for frying)
- 5 potatoes , cooked and mashed
- 1 onion , finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 carrot , diced (optional)
- ½ lb peas
- 1 green hot pepper , cut into thin strips
- 1 (1-in) piece fresh ginger , grated
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ bunch cilantro , finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Black pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, cardamom, baking soda and salt.
- Add ghee and lassi and mix with until dough becomes sandy.
- Pour ½ cup of water and, using the dough hook, mix for 4 minutes.
- Add remaining water gradually if necessary.
- The dough should quickly become soft, smooth and elastic.
- Form a ball with the dough, lightly coat the entire surface with oil, and cover with a cloth.
- Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and pour the onion and ginger.
- Sauté for 2 minutes until the onion is soft, then add the garlic.
- Sauté for a minute.
- Add peas, hot pepper and carrot and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.
Finally, add the mashed potatoes and the other ingredients.
- Mix well and cook over low heat, covered for 5 minutes.
- Vigorously mix the flour and water until reaching the consistency of a thick cream.
- Divide dough 8 equal pieces.
- Take each piece of dough and roll it between the palms to form a smooth ball.
- Roll out the dough thinly and cut it in half to get two half circles.
- Use a brush or your fingers to apply some glue to the edges of the dough.
- Then, form a cone.
- Fold and stuff the cone with the mixture of mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, as shown in this video.
- Heat oil in a large skillet.
- Carefully slide samosas in the oil and fry until golden.
- If you do not serve the samosas immediately, deep fry them again for 1 minute before serving.
- Serve hot or warm with cilantro sauce or tamarind chutney.