Samosa is an Indian fried pastry typically prepared with a spicy stuffing. The pastry shell that is framed in triangular or sometimes tetrahedral shape is generally made of refined wheat flour dough. However, the shape and size of this savory pastry can vary significantly. Even the thickness of outer shell also depends upon the choice. It can either be very thin and crispy or can be thick and slightly soft.
The savory stuffing , which is the highlighted feature of this dish, has several variations depending upon the regional recipes. Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi and even Gujarati cuisines have innumerable recipes for making samosa stuffing. With numerous vernacular names such as singara, samsa, sambusak and somsa, this snack item is not only popular in Indian cuisine, but also famous in Burmese, Turkish and even Arabic cuisines.
Central Asia is believed to be the place of origin of the samosa. The snack originated prior to 10th century and it was known as ‘samsa’ in the region. A historian from Iraq, Abolfazl Beyhaqi mentioned about the samosas in his historical book ‘Tarikh-e Beyhaqi’ based on Ghaznavi's Empire.
Legend has it that samosa was first brought to the Indian subcontinent in 13th-14th century by the Iranian traders who travelled to India. The Muslim traders used to cook these crisp and savory pastries with minced meat filling and used to pack them in saddle bags for next day meal on the go.
Ingredients and Preparation
Traditionally, the samosa filling is prepared with vegetables including potatoes as the most common vegetable. Peas, onion and carrot are some of the popular additions. A plethora of flavoring ingredients like ginger, garlic, curry leaves, cumin powder, chili powder and coriander are added to enhance the taste of the filling.
Refined flour is generally used to make soft dough for forming the outer crust of samosas. The flour is kneaded softly with little oil and salt. Salt and oil help in making a crispy outer shell after frying. To finish off with the preparation of samosa, the filling is stuffed in the dough wrapping and molded in the preferred shape, most popularly triangular. Although baking is also one of the popular methods of making samosas, deep-frying is the most commonly used method for making samosa in Indian subcontinent and many other South East Asian countries.
Apart from the traditional stuffing, samosas are also prepared with minced meat or chicken filling. The flavoring ingredients are more of less same in both kinds of fillings.
Samosa is generally served as an appetizer or snack along with coriander, tomato or tamarind chutney. Street vendors also sell this popular Indian snack along with chutney and sometimes with grated radish and chhole (chickpea curry).
Variations of Samosa Recipe
The different parts of world have inherited the recipe of samosa and the dish is prepared with considerable changes. Here are some variations:
- Somsa – In Kazakhstan, the dish is typically baked instead of being fried. Minced lamb and onion are the common fillings. Chicken, beef, cheese and even pumpkin filling are also quite popular in the region.
- Lukhmi – Popular in Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad, this smaller version of samosa is made of minced-meat filling stuffed inside a thick pastry crust.
- Samomas – South Indian samosas made of mixed vegetable filling seasoned with local spices imparting typical South Indian flavor.
- Sambusa – Staple of Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, this snack is traditionally served at Ramadan, Christmas and other special occasions.
- Sambusak – Middle Eastern semi-circular pastry filled with minced chicken or meat, onion, feta cheese and spinach. Mashed chickpea also makes a nice filling for sambusak is prepared in Israeli and Jewish cuisines.
- Chamucas – Usually filled with pork, chicken or beef, this Goanese or Portuguese fried pastry is quite hot. This is the most commonly served snack in Portuguese as well as in Goanese cuisines.
Being a fried snack, this Indian dish is considered highly fattening and calorific. However, baked version is extremely healthy, if prepared with nutritional vegetables and meats. Variations in flour used for outer shell of samosa also helps in balancing the nutritional value of the dish. Wheat flour is more beneficial than refined flour or Maida.
Frozen samosa is now easily available in grocery stores with several stuffings.