The steam engine whistled loudly and bellowed out huge column of black smoke as the train entered a very small railway station called Kosi Kalan! It was a cold December morning as I heard the cries of ‘ Samosa’ , ‘Garam Samosa’( Hot Samosa)! My small face was pressed against the window of the train’s compartment as I called the hawker and my parents bought the piping hot samosas for me and my brothers for our indulgence! I was the eldest and must have been around five years old then! These are some memories of my first bites of this lovely snack with tamarind and coriander-mint chutney as accompaniment! We were on a trip to
the birth place of Lord Krishna and our native place!
I never imagined that this would be the beginning of my longest romance with any kind of food. Regardless, wherever I traveled, I soon realized that this fusion dish is a perfect blend of north, east, west and south
India and any
other food pales in comparison! A popular appetizer and a snack which has
followers not only in all parts of India but world over and the variants of
Samosas are available in many parts of Asia, Mediterranean, Africa and finds acceptance globally in
Europe, Americas and Australia also.
Samosa was an important element in the journey of life this far! In the growing years when I started going to school, I would save money by walking to school instead of going by the bus to wait for the Samosa wala’ to bring steaming hot samosas to placate my salivating mouth. How many times I burnt my inners of the mouth by misjudging the heat of the emanating steam. I learnt my lessons in Physics on ‘latent heat of the steam’ and its capacity to burn by those bites into the samosa.
Samosa continued to win all the battle of arguments on the coffee sessions in the college canteen and it was next to impossible not to find anyone who would not like the blissful food! Twice in the week the NCC parades would end with a coupon of snacks for which Samosa was the best deal!
From the college I landed into the Navy to fulfill my wish to see the world and make a career! My mother packed samosas filled with dried flavored dal ( lentil) and these could last for more than a fortnight without getting spoilt. The
Naval Academy was very strenuous but even here the canteen
in Kochi served
my favorite ‘Samosas though a bit different in look and with a slightly
different filling! The bruised and hurt body after long hours of drill and
physical activity craved more for the samosas! I would still wait for my
samosas to arrive from home during every Diwali and Holi festival while I was a
bachelor, in the Navy. In my almost twenty year long service no farewell or
party would be complete without finding the luscious looking samosas staring
back at me as I would try to look away from them to win the ‘ battle of bulging
I travelled to many parts of the country and had the luck to flavor the best samosas which I recount here.
1. An evergreen shop of samosas at Panchkuian Road near the Lady Hardinge Hospital( now Sucheta Kriplani Hospital), near New Delhi , the owner was a well built mustached man from Frontier in Pakistan doling out huge samosas filled with potatoes and green peas. The only match for these were samosas in Hotel Ashok at
2. Haldiram and Bikanerwala in
Delhi make some lovely samosas with a filling
of potatoes and dryfruits. Old Delhi
has some places where samosas filled with filling of lamb and mutton are
available, though have never tasted them
3. A very small sized samosas in
Kanpur which can be stored for a month and still
retain their flavor
4. In South
the samosas are available in every nook and corner and have mixed vegetable,
potatoes, onions etc as a filling. In Maharashtra
and Gujrat, too no ‘chaat’ is complete without a samosa . I lived in Goa whilst
serving in the Navy and ‘Chamuchas’, a Portugese variant of the dish was
popular and was usually filled with beef, pork and lamb!
5. In far east the samosas are referred to as ‘Singhara’ and for the best variety, ‘Tiwari’s’ at AJC Bose Road in Kolkata is not to be missed. Even some roadside food stalls sell excellent singharas. I tried some good singharas in Gauhati and Shillong too!
6. There is no town of
Bihar or Punjab where samosas don’t sell! I
stayed in Patna
for over eight months a few years back and had samosas for the dinner many a
times from the vendor at Ashiana
Road. Benaras, Mathura,
each town boasts of some of the best samosas!
7. Just after my marriage, I landed in
Srinagar and soon after arriving I and my
wife feasted on this lovely snack in Lal Chowk. We undertook a journey to Leh
by road admiring the barren beauty to reach Kargil for a stopover at night. We
were greeted by the Army Mess havaldar with a huge treat of samosas!
8. I waited outside the labor ward in
at Pune while it
rained incessantly through the night, eagerly waiting to hear the good news.
Around 8.30AM I hopped to the canteen to get some samosas and the moment I
returned I was informed by the nurse of the arrival of our daughter! Army Command
9. An Italian was working with me on a project a few years back and around lunch time we walked up to eat. On asking him what he would like, he answered, ‘Samosas’, his favorite.
I did a bit of international travel and was surprised to find the variants of samosas in
in streets of Tel Aviv being sold as ‘sambusak’ filled with chickpeas and
onions. In New York,
I landed in a small restaurant run by a Pakistani origin that made very
delectable samosas. In Pakistan
too different versions of Samosas filling of minced meat, chicken etc are
available in most places. The ‘Patti samosas’ in Langkawi in Malaysia were a
pleasant surprise! While on a trip to Bali in Indonesia I came across a variant
of samosa with a filling of beef ! On
a recent visit to Singapore
, I was amazed to find half a dozen variants of ‘frozen samosas’ in Mustafa, the
giant shopping mall!!
This wonder fusion food was brought to
India in thirteenth century by traders from Central Asia and still finds a place of pride in every
function be it a birthday, wedding, or any festival cutting across religious
barriers and loved by all unequivocally and cementing the bonds of friendship
universally! Now I need not look far as
my wife makes them for me at home!
PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google