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Friday, April 2, 2021

Samosas - A Burst of Flavours

 


The steam engine whistled loudly and bellowed out a 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! These are some memories of my first bites of this lovely snack with tamarind and coriander-mint chutney as accompaniment! 

Regardless, wherever I travelled, I soon realized that this dish is a perfect blend of north, east, west and south India. Any other food pales in comparison the only competition being Idli and Dosa. The snack has followers not only in all parts of India but the world over. The variants of Samosas are available in many parts of Asia, the Mediterranean,  Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australia also.

The samosa was an important element in the journey of life this far! During childhood, I would  save money by walking to school instead of going by 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 ‘the latent heat of the steam’ and it's capacity to burn by those bites into the samosa.

Twice in the week the NCC parades during college would end with a coupon of snacks for which Samosa was the best deal!

I landed in the Navy to make a career! My mother packed samosas filled with dried flavoured 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 favourite ‘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!  In my 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 waistline’

Some of the finest flavors of samosas worthy of a recall of memory are as follows:
 
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 moustached 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 New Delhi
Haldiram and Bikanerwala in Delhi make some lovely samosas with a filling of potatoes and dry fruits. Old Delhi has some places where samosas filled with the filling of lamb and mutton are available, though have never tasted them
A very small sized samosas in Kanpur can be stored for a month and still retain their flavour
In South India 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 Portuguese variant of the dish was popular and was usually filled with beef, pork and lamb!
In the 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!
There is no town of UP, 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 time from the vendor at Ashiana Road. Varanasi, Mathura,  AgraLucknow each town boasts of some of the best samosas!
Soon after my marriage, I landed in Srinagar where my wife and I 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! 
I waited outside the labour ward in Army Command Hospital 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 about the arrival of our daughter! 

During my travel abroad  I was surprised to find the variants of samosas in Israel in the 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.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 visit to Singapore, I was amazed to find half a dozen variants of ‘frozen samosas’ in Mustafa, the giant shopping mall!

This wonder food was brought to India in the 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 at home with the most colourful variant on the recent Holi. There are so many stories around samosas that several posts would be required and still something is likely to be missed

PS: This post has been adapted from my earlier post ' http://www.rahulsblogandcollections.com/2012/07/a-tryst-with-samosas.html'

1 comment:

  1. I love samosas and no matter how much I rack my brain, I am not able to recollect when I had my first bite of this amazing snack... the bakeries in Kerala sell a more crispy version of the snack with more onions and carrots or beetroot in the filling...I think they use a mould and it kind of makes a perfect triangle... My dad used to say that the mini samosas at Irani Cafe Chennai were very popular in the good old days

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