The samosa may be best known as a quintessentially Indian snack, but it was actually a dish that originated in the Middle East, dating back to the 9th century Persian empire. The versatile stuffed pastry dough triangle now has various iterations across central and south Asia – whether it’s the Lebanese sambusek or the Afghani sambosa.
It is also considered a Ramadan staple in the Indian subcontinent, being an essential inclusion in typical iftar feasts.
According to Indian food blogger Tasneem Rajkotwala, who blogs at www.thoughtsoverchai.net, “No iftar meal is complete without biting into a hot fried chutney-loaded samosa, inhaling its teasing waft of ginger and garlic and munching the spicy filling after a daylong fast.”
The many variations on the theme include different fillings and styles in different regions of India as well. Once a favored dish of royal courts, today it is omnipresent across Indian homes, in street stalls, and restaurants alike. Stuffings can range from potatoes – the classic – to vegetables (like the ‘shingara in Bengal) and meat. Regardless of the filling, it is usually – and best – enjoyed with a spicy chutney dip. While usually a deep fried snack, you can make a healthier version by baking.
“Samosas have continued to evolve into a food that has limitless possibilities to experiment. A varied Indian culture has had the opportunity to culturally mold the concept and samosas represent how India has adopted them to its own requirement with its own addition of spices like ginger and caraway seeds. The filling changed too, with vegetables replacing the meat in most of the subcontinent,” says Tasneem.
One such version is the something she herself grew up with, a smoked mincemeat samosa that is traditional among Bohra Muslims, a community she is part of.
“Because my mom has always been a working woman, I remember she always did the preparations for iftar on the previous night as my sister and I helped with minor chores,” she reminisces. “The most exciting moment was when she'd put together the elements for dhungaar, a charcoal smoke introduced to the filling mixture which would make the whole dish go from good to brilliant. We'd then watch her effortlessly fold strips of the dough into perfect triangles and freeze them to use the next day!
“Her daughters would get some interesting shapes that nearly resembled a triangle, but the disasters were out-numbered by the laughs and giggles that has turned into beautiful memories I look back to year after year.”
She shares the family recipe here with us… try this version, or experiment with your own, as many others have done before with samosas, and make your own culinary memories!
Bohra Keema Samosa with Dhungaar
• 350g minced mutton
• 2 tbsp ginger, grated
• 2 tbsp garlic, grated
• 2 green chillies , finely chopped
• ¼ cup water
• 4 stalks of scallions/green onions, finely chopped
• Handful of mint leaves, chopped
• ½ cup green peas, boiled or frozen
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• ¼ tsp turmeric powder
• Salt to taste
• Vegetable oil for deep frying + 2 tbsp
• Hot coal and clarified butter (ghee) for dhungaar.
• 20 packed samosa sheets
1. To make the filling, in a pot, heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil. Saute ginger, garlic and whites of scallions for approximately two to three minutes until translucent. Add green chillies and continue to saute for another minute.
2. Add mince and saute and fry for a couple of minutes on medium flame. Add the dry spices. Mix well. Now add water and cover and cook on medium low heat till the mince is cooked and is completely dry. Add the green peas and mix. Turn off the heat.
3. For dhungaar, place a small steel bowl inside the cooking pot of mince filling and add a few spoons of ghee in it. Place a hot coal on the ghee and cover the pot to trap the smokiness from the coal inside the mixture. Let it cool.
4. Defrost the samosa sheets and make some slurry of flour and water to glue the ends of the samosas.
5. To make samosas, work one sheet at a time. Fold the sheets into a shape of the cone and fill about 2 tbsp of filling into the triangle. Press it down with your fingers and brush the flour water slurry on the end of the pastry to seal.
6. Heat oil in a wok and deep fry until golden brown. Alternatively, you can brush the oil on top of the samosas and bake at 200 degrees C for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with chutneys.
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