Sum of sumptuous samosas

Food File

Bite By Bite: Samosas on a vendor’s cart in Shivajinagar DH photo by Janardhan B KJab tak rahega samose mein aaloo/ Mein tera rahoonga, oh meri Shaalu

— Thus sings Abhijit to Anu Malik’s tune with Alka Yagnik giving him company for the film Mr and Mrs Khiladi.The lyrics may be plebeian, but it only goes to show how popular the samosa is in the average Indian psyche.

The ubiquitous but humble samosa was in the limelight recently when United Stated President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama served chicken samosas among other dishes at a White House reception hosted for ambassadors.  Although samosa in India is mainly a vegetarian preparation, the Obamas served samosas with chicken filling and yogurt dip to their guests at the White House.

Snack for all seasons
Traditionally made using maida, potato, onion, spices, green chillies, it is not uncommon to enrich the filling with raisins and cashewnuts or even paneer. It is eaten with chutney made of mint, coriander or tamarind. Largely triangular is shape, it is sometimes shaped into half-moon, conical or square, to distinguish its variety.

In Bangalore samosas are a popular snack to break the fast during Ramzan. Here samosas have become synonymous with the month of Ramzan, particularly in the Shivajinagar area. Not that they are not found during the rest of the year in the hundreds of tea shops in the City. There are at least 60 samosa outlets in Shivajinagar alone. According to a ballpark estimate 8-10 lakh samosas are sold during the Ramzan period and they come in different varieties—vegetable, onion, mutton kheema and egg.

In Hyderabad, Haleem (stew made from pounded wheat and meat) is popular during Ramzan, but Hyderabad does have its own smaller version of the samosa with a thicker pastry crust and filled with mince called a Lukhmi. It is a typical mince savoury or starter.

A non-vegetarian derivative of samosa, its preparation includes stuffing it with mutton-mince kheema, but the fillings could be different. It is shaped into a flat, square patty. Besides mince meat (kheema), the ingredients include flour and yogurt. The dough is mixed in yogurt thoroughly until it becomes very smooth and then stuffed with minced meat. Kheemey ki Lukhmi is served as a starter at Hyderabadi weddings and other celebrations.

In Punjab, where they call it smosa, the samosas are large with a filling made of spicy mashed potatoes and peas. In Bengal the samosa is called Shingara and is yet another delicious version.

In Pakistan, the Faisalabadi samosas are very well known. People from across Pakistan flock to the city just to try them. They are large, topped with spicy red and white chutney with a side portion of onion salad. The filling is usually mixed vegetable, however the meat version is also very popular. Many Indians would get a chance to taste these samosas, were it not for the Indo-Pak relations, as they are today.

One may tend to think that samosa is a quintessential snack of the Indian sub-continent, but in truth it actually originated in Central Asia and then literally travelled along the trade routes to India and other parts. Medieval Arab cookery books refer to this snack as sanbusak, sanbusaq or sanbusaj, which in turn originated from the Persian word, sanbosag. Ibn Battuta, the Morrocan traveller who came to India during the Mughal period, described the sanbusak as minced meat cooked with almonds, pistachios, onions and spices, placed inside a thin envelope of wheat flour and deep-fried in ghee.

As for the popular ditty on the samosa, it has been adapted as a political slogan:
Jab tak rahega samose mein aaloo,
tab tak rahega Bihar mein Lalu

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