By: Anagha Vinay
Samosas, proclaimed as the holy triangle, worshipped and revered in India, was actually never Indian! A mere immigrant that blended into our brethren of meals, samosas originated during the 10th century in the Middle East region. We may never know who mothered or fathered our beloved samosa, but the first official record of it was found in the work of an Iranian historian Abolfazl Beyhadqi, Tarikh-e Beyhaghi. It was referred to as ‘sambosa’ in it. Originally named ‘samsa’ after the pyramids of Central Asia, they have various pseudonyms, all deriving from the Persian word ‘sanbosag’, meaning triangular pastry. Long before samosa traveled into the lands of India, they had traveled far and wide in the saddlebags of travelers.
The first notable mention of samosa in the royal era was by the poet, musician, and scholar of the Delhi Sultanate, Amir Khusro, who spoke of this treat prepared from meat, ghee, and onion that nobles relished. Our much prized ‘Indian’ snack is said to have been introduced by the Middle Eastern chefs during the Sultanate rule. Ibn Battuta, a traveler, mentioned ‘sambusak’ of the royal meal in the Tughluq court that was a delicacy made with minced meat, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and spices. Records of the same have been found under the alias ‘sanbúsah’ in the Mughal dynasty.
If you believe that is all you need to know about this triangular marvel, here’s more. There are more than 15-20 desi avatars of samosa rolling. Hyderabadi ‘lukhmis’ have thicker crusts and are stuffed with minced meat. Their southern kin are prepared with cabbage, carrots, and curry leaves. ‘Shingaras’ of Bengal come in sweet as well as savory flavors.
The Delhite dingies carry keema, khova, or even moong dal in them. The ones that you would get in Gujarat are tinier and filled with French beans and sweet peas. The Punjabi version can be found enriched with potatoes, peas, raisins, and cashews. The Goan ‘chamuças’ had minced beef, chicken, or pork in them.
Known in Portugal, Brazil, and Mozambique as ‘pastéis’, and in the Arab countries where rests the god-father of this calorie criminal as the semicircular ‘sambusaks’, they vary from being stuffed with minced meat or chicken to onions, spinach, and feta cheese. In the Maldives, they are appreciated with a filling of tuna or fish mixed with onions. The Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan ‘somsas’ have a thicker and crumblier crust since it is generally baked, and not fried. Their fillings range from minced lamb to even pumpkin. Jewish snacks, on the other hand, usually consist of mashed chickpeas. Africa’s ‘sambusas’ is a celebrated treat for Ramadan, Eid, and Mesqel.
The next time the crisp smell of samosas echoes in your nasal cavity, visualize yourself traveling into the Middle East, the dusty lanes, and the beautiful Adhan that can be heard in all corners of the street. The little mischief sitting on the plate in front of you has many stories to share, just as you do, as you are sitting down with your friends munching. The next time someone attempts to steal your share of samosa, bore them away with the long tale of its history so that you can have an additional 300 calories of your daily diet requirement fulfilled in a go.