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Suvir Saran

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Sigh.  It's been so many years since I had a decent one, I'm hard pressed to remember.  Way back, about 13 or 14 years ago in a Pakistani restaurant in Rockville, Maryland.  (sorry, Suvir, but that's where I had it...).  It was a chicken samosa with what appeared to be very tender pieces of chicken tikka mixed with peas and potatoes and a whopping amount of curry.  The pastry was flaky and yet firm simultaneously--and not greasy--which I'm sorry to say isn't frequently the case with most samosas I've seen.

Is this yet another one of those foods which tends to be horribly mismanaged in America, or am I just going to the wrong places, Samosa-wise that is?

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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It is mismanaged for the most part.  And why be sorry.. at least you had some that you loved and found better than what you have seen since.

Whopping amount of curry.. what would you mean by that?  What was too much in the samosa?  

I have not had a good samosa in a restaurant for a long time.  A few years ago I had samosas in an Indian restaurant in New Jersey called Mela.  They were so perfect to what a typical Indian street side Halwai would make, that I called our friend Gael Green and told her about it.  The next thing I know, we were in a stretch limo leaving NYC and going to Ridgewood for an evening of samosas and Indian food.  We had a famous Bollywood designer with us and he was carrying a yet to be released movies un-edited video, we saw that, ate some chili potato chips I had made at home and reached NJ to sample the samosas for the most part.

They inspired Gael to write one of the few pieces she has ever written about a non NYC restaurant.   So, you are not alone in your pursuit of samosas.  They inspire all of us to make an effort.

For when good, they are amazing.  And when poor, they can still interest ones palate, but leave nothing more for the memory.

You describe that samosa as one would a perfect one..... Flaky yet firm.. simultaneously, not greasy.. these are the winning words.  That is exactly what one needs in samosas.

Also, as we read more posts, you will see how they also ought to be very delicately seasoned.  We see in the US at least, an over zealous mix of spices and ingredients.    It is that which kills them for me.  

And yes in Bengal they make the most wonderful samosas with minced chicken very delicately spiced.

It is also in Bengal that you can find Shingaras (vegetable samosas) and again, these are very delicately spiced.  Many restaurants in NYC have done a marriage of shingaras with the north Indian samosas and not succeeded in doing justice to either style.  

But that is my take alone.. I am sure we will uncover many other subtleties that go in the enjoyment of savoring and making of samosas.

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And how could I forget.. in Bombay, the Parsis have given us their own take of samosas.  The crust is a little greasier, more firm and elastic and I think it has eggs in it.  The filling is different as well.. and can be vegetarian and made with meats.

And then you have the sambussas you find in Ethiopian restaurants.  Stuffed with lentils or meat.  Delicious again.  The crust of the sambussas is closer to the Parsi style samosas.

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I'll add that it was a yellow curry base--which I liked very much.  Since yellow curry, to my taste at least, is never that strong I retract my "whopping" statement.  I vaguely remember thinking it was a bit odd to have a yellow curry base mixed with that type of chicken, but again, my main pleasure was in the pastry.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I would claim no great knowledge of the proper samosa, but the best I have ever tasted outside of the home were in Mela in London ( on Shaftebury Ave )

This is a great restaurant specialising in coutry style food and run like a Dehli dhabar ( now I know I have that spelling wrong )

Their samosa are made with mutton, peas a little potato all fried with turmeric, cumin and a little ginger and chilli.  The pastry is toothsome (like my women,  I hate them too flaky ) and the outside is dripping in ghee.

Now that is a street snack

Perhaps that is an area where we can make those frenchie lovers eat their words.  Surely India must be the home of the superb street snack.  God I need a luci ( sounds illegal doesn't it?)


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Indian food leaves so much room for personal interpretations that it would be hard to say what is a real authentic samosa.

Samosas have been a part of Indian cuisine for a very long time as far as I have been told.  The pastry has changed as rulers have changed and people of other cultures have brought their own take on making pastry.  

Samosas are as much about the filling as they are about the crust.  The perfect balance lies in the crust being flaky and brittle and yet crisp.  And the filling being just flavorful enough to give the crust some bite, but to not overwhelm the very gentle flavor of the fried crust.  Therein lies the disappointment with most samosas.  Many chefs loose themselves in this moment and forget that the spice mix is going to be stuffed into plain fried dough.

The flour is greased with ghee before it is mixed with water and kneaded into a stiff dough.  The dough is broken into marble sized balls that are then rolled into fine circles and the circles are cut in half to form into pockets into which the stuffing goes.  Though today many fry samosas in oil.. Or rather all restaurants fry them in oil; ghee is what makes for a flakier crust for sure.  It keeps the crust flakier and also makes the samosas taste better as they sit.  Ghee tends to stick to the surface and harden lending to the crispy bite; oil on the other hand will make the samosas feel greasy as they sit for long periods.

Traditional Stuffing:  When one travels across the northern part of the country (India) one finds variations for sure, but for the most part, following is the most accepted filling mix:

For old fashioned Halwai Samosas



Heeng (asafoetida)

Coarsely ground coriander seeds

Cumin seeds (preferably shahi zeera, the fine black cumin seeds)

Chopped green chilies

Lots of fresh cilantro

Red chili powder

Amchoor (mango powder, and when desperate, to be substituted with lemon juice)

This is the filling mix that one would find through Delhi, Lucknow, Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.  Or at least for t he most part.  There is an absence of onions and ginger and garlic, since many of the business and trading communities do not eat these for religious reasons.  Thus Heeng is used to give the savory taste that onions and garlic would have left in the mix.  

In traditional halwai samosas turmeric is never used.  It is for two reasons, turmeric is great in curries as they cook for a long period of time and that softens the flavor of the powder.  In samosas, the filling is barely cooked after being spiced and when turmeric is added, it becomes the reigning flavor, when in good samosa filling, one expects to see the coarsely ground coriander seeds, the cumin seeds and the cilantro and green chilies give the mix a tooth.  Peas are added for the same reason.  But in many villages and smaller cities, one often finds plan potato samosas.

The samosas with meat are a later addition and belong to communities where meat was eaten.  Thus it is more common in Bengal and Bangladesh to find these sold like potato samosas on the streets.  In Bombay, the Parsees have left the same mark, so now, one can find street side vendors selling regular samosas and also Parsi Samosas with meat or even with a onion and potato filling for the vegetarians.

Certainly since the independence of India, many tastes have traveled across the different communities, and now, those Halwai Samosas are slowly accepting changes.  One can now find samosas with onions in them.  Some with the addition of ginger.  And some that also have nuts.  Many vendors feel they need to add more as they compete with others.  All of these factors have led to subtle changes taking place in the otherwise very simple recipe.

What one sees in NYC kitchens is a fusion of the Bengali and North Indian tastes.  Recently I was at a respectable Indian restaurant in NYC.  I was being fed samosas by the chef who comes from a long line of famous chefs of the Mughal style of cooking.  He was so happy to see me that he wanted to first give me my favorite snack, samosas and then charm me further with his food.  Well, the samosas were not authentic and not part of his repertoire, as I had known.  As I was waiting for them, we compared samosa recipes, and we each came up with the same.  The owners of the restaurant also agreed and were excited to know others knew the simple recipe that had been shared down the generations.

While the samosas that came to the table were perfectly crisp and flaky, the filling was yellow, killed with too much turmeric and had cumin and coriander in it but also Panch Phoron and onions and ginger and garlic and... on and on.... I asked the chef what had happened, and he smiled.. and said, well, the chef that makes the samosas is from Bangladesh.  He had been given the recipe and changed it to his own tastes.  

I asked the chef what he thought of these samosas; he said he would never eat them.  These were not to his taste.  But people in NYC love them.  And I asked what people.  He said the Indians seem to not care one way or the other.  Some like me would want either the shingaras from Bengal or the Samosas as I know from the north, but this fusion of the two does not work for those like the chef himself.  The owners too were embarrassed and asked for the chef to make sure to share the recipe again with the samosa station chef.  Well, I was surprised that this amazing chef cared little about the food coming from his kitchen.  I would taste everything that came with my name associated with it.  But then, I realized how little restaurant owner's share with these chefs.  They work hard and are given little respect and share little in the fame that the restaurant gets.  That made me understand his lazy approach to tasting.

I only share this story, cause it gives us another thread in the evolution of samosas as we seem them in restaurants.  They certainly have been changed.  And as the world becomes a global village.. and chefs from various regions work together; this fusion is bound to happen.  And in its occurrences are the wonders of new discoveries.

While I enjoy these fusion recipes, I also have much respect for those recipes that have lasted generations.  They are just as today in this century as they were several before.  And what we create today with fusion would perhaps hold the same centuries later.  But they each have their own strengths.

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Interesting too.. that Mela in London and Mela in NJ both make great samosas in two different continents.

And on another note, Indian street food is certainly very vibrant.  And that is true for most Asian street food.  I guess people do spend a lot more time outdoors and walking.  Maybe that makes for a need for food that can entertain the moods of those people.  Since street food has amazing power to be restorative in its addictive quality.  Ones body tired from a long day, can easily find a safe haven holding a bowl of chaat, gol-gappas or puchkas as you would call them in Bengal or paani poori elsewhere.  \

Street food is heavenly and so fulfilling and yet so under rated.

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Suvir, You did a pretty thorough job delineating the different kinds of samosas -

North Indian style, Bengali Singharas, Parsee samusa,

The North African/Egyptian/Morrocan meat and peas filled concoctions.

The singharas of Kolkatta are smaller and crisper

(something like twice-fried-fries :smile: ) and in the Coffee House of Cal U. were

served with tomato-ketchup. In the outer regions of Bengal they were served with

ghoogni (chick-peas) In New Delhi, I've had it served with chole (chick-peas) too, with chopped onions

as well as at times with mint chutneys. The Egyptians and Moroccans have served the

meat ones with yoghurt dips.

The key to having a North Indian samosas is to get ones as they come out of the

big kaddhai with boiling-hot oil. Once they cool of they lose their fluffy crisp outer maida

base batter. In the south, specially in Hyderabad the samosas are a fusion of north with some variation of

spices from the south, use of tamarind to tangy up the fillings, as opposed to pomegranate seeds used in Punjab.

Finally, this past week, I had one in Cannaught Place with mutton,

peas and methi -- Hmmm, I do not know whether it was a new variation, or he was using

up the leftovers and mashing it with spices  :smile:

I'm told that "Mirchi"  in the West Village is making an attempt to revive some of the street food traditions

and samosas are in there. I shall wait a few weeks before I check the place out.


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Mirchi was great when it opened.. in fact I went there with the critics for both the NY TImes and NY Magazine.  The food is spicy and as good an attempt as has been made here in a finer setting than Dimple Chaat House for selling street foods.

With chickpeas we call it samosa kee chaat.  It changes the dish altogether.  But I love t hat too.

And Hyderabad is the land of great fusion.  They have a great marriage of moslem food from the north with the vegetarian and spicier foods of the south.  And a fusion that was done under the patronage of Nizams that expected perfection as good as can be.  

We also had samosas with Ketchup in my home in Delhi where panditji our Brahmin chef of now close to 60 years made t hem for my friends and I.  He would call us a battalion of hungry cricket players that needed 6-10 samosas each.  And here, this man would make them fresh.  6-8 at a time so each of us could get one.. and we would each eat upto 10 each and would make dinner out of that street food made at home.  The trick is to eat them right out of the fat and ghee makes all the difference.  

Anil, did you grow up in Delhi?  Are you in the food business?

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You have lived in very diverse places.  No wonder you find it easy to speak with such clarity and passion about this food.

Do you work in the food industry?

What food ?  :smile:  No I do not work in the food industry, just help sustain them along

with the Airlines and Hotel businesses.


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  • 2 years later...

Boiled potatoes red chilli powder and salt is perhaps the most basic filling for a samosa. then come variations with peas,nuts, different spices, we do ours with mango powder, caramalized onions etc.

what are the different fillings you are familiar with

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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I made samosas. Once. It took several hours. After the first two dozen, I thought no coworkers are worth this kind of effort, but I finished them and ended up with around 40. They came out great but I haven't gotten up the gumption to do it again.

The filling was cubed potato, spices, peas and some hare chutney mixed in.


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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I spent one Sunday making close to 100 samosas. I was experimenting with different types of fillings and dough. Although they were big hits with the GF and the co-workers, I was dissapointed that the skin was not as flaky as I would have liked. Since then I have learned the importance of working the fat into the flour to make a flaky crust, but I have not tried making them since.

Although the crust did not come out so great, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different fillings. Some of them came out really yummy. About half the batch I made were potato pea, which seem to be the standard veggie kind served at most restaurants I have tried. In one batch of these I left the skin on the potatoes and I thought the taste of the potato skin went well with the other ingredients.

I got creative with the second half of the samosas, here are the fillings I tried:

chicken tikka and potatoe-pea

chiken tikka and mango

chicken tikka and pineapple

spicy ground beef (sookha keema)

spicy ground beef and potato-pea

spicy ground beef and mango

shrimp and cilantro

mango, yogurt, almond and raisin

Some came out better than others. The beef and mango was pretty disgusting. The chicken and potato were a big hit. The last one on the list with the mango, yogurt, almond, and raisin was sprinkled with powdered sugar and a little garam masala, and it was very tasty.

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Have you noticed that samosas in the U.S. at least are getting bigger and bigger, especially at receptions and buffet lunches in Indian restaurants. Some of them must weigh a pound. I don't know whether this is to save time making a lot of little things or to fill people up so that they don't eat other things. I find it a very dismaying trend.

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Have you noticed that samosas in the U.S. at least are getting bigger and bigger, especially at receptions and buffet lunches in Indian restaurants. Some of them must weigh a pound. I don't know whether this is to save time making a lot of little things or to fill people up so that they don't eat other things. I find it a very dismaying trend.

Punjabi Samosa are indeed big, while Bengali singara are small - The rest ar in between in size. I'd say Morrocan samusa are mid-range with leeks and ground beef fillings.


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I have never been a big samosa fan. I must admit having a liking for the tiny cocktail ones though!

Richie111 for someone who has made a 100 samosas you are certainly not a beginner to this cuisine

Well, more soon, I spent the whole weekend shooting with Bon Appetit mag and now am exhausted

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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That 100 samosa marathon sounded like fun. I conked out after 40, though I had enough potato and pea filling to easily make another 40. Had to stop on account of exhaustion, hehe.

There is a Pakistani restaurant in my area (Usmania Tikka Kabob in Seattle) that sells samosas made out of half circle pieces of dough, folded into flat triangles. I like their smaller size, plus they are easier to handle for dipping purposes.

Hot fresh samosa + chai is such a great snack. Hm, now I'm craving it. What to do...

I've also had Ethiopian sambusas, which were flat triangles with a thin layered crunchy wrapping. Also good.


Edited by Sleepy_Dragon (log)

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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  • 1 month later...

Hi all--

I'm thinking about making the Whole-Wheat Meat Samosas from Madhur Jaffrey's Step-by-Step Cooking for a party tomorrow, but some folks are vegetarians, so I'd love to do some potato filled ones as well. Anyone have a tried-and-true recipe? Alternative veggie fillings are welcomed as well.

Also, recipes for sauces to serve them with would be great as well.



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I usually boil the potatoes and then peel and cube them. I heat up some oil and add some jeera (cumin) seeds and some asafoetida (just a pinch). I add some finely chopped ginger and green chillies. A minute or two later, I add the potatoes and peas along with some coriander and cum powder, some chilli powder and some amchoor (dried mango powder I think!). SOmetimes I'll add a lil bit of garam masala as well. A small squeeze of lemon juice could substitute if you dont have amchoor. I just ensure the potatoes and peas are well coated with the spices and let it all cook for around 5 minutes or so. I let the whole thing cool and then stuff the samosas and fry em :). Very important that the filling is cool when you're doing the stuffing (one of moms warnings I follow religiously). Oh and I tend to add a lil finely chopped coriander as well (dont think I ever saw coriander in the restaurant samosas back in bbay though).

Everyone seems to like it altho its pretty basic. I also do a spiced spinach filling on miniature samosas. I just finely chop blanched/steamed spinach seasoned with a lil salt and chilli powder and some garam masala. I think cauliflower and peas would work too as would lentils I suppose. I think the key is just to ensure that the filling is not wet.. apart from that as long as your guests are open to experimenting, you can let your creativity run wild!


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Morda -

I use a recipe similar to worm@work's. It's a pretty standard recipe, if your book doesn't have it let me know and I will post a recipe with exact quantities. I think the amchoor is really important as it provides a nice tanginess. For other ideas besides potato pea, here's link to another thread.

Good luck!

P.S. if you haven't made samosas before, rolling out the dough can be a real pain :angry: . I know some people use pre-cut dough, but I find the process is not as bad if you find someone to make them with you!

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