The fascinating history of Indian delight- Samosa
Samosa is the pretty, deep-fried, twisted pack of spicy goodness that oozes with chicken, meat, or potato. It is a signature snack of every gathering. Be it an evening chat with friends at the street corner ‘adda’, or a sophisticated business meeting, the call for a samosa remains a constant. Samosas, the much-loved Indian snack, are banned in Somalia. Somalians believe that the shape of the samosa looks like the Christian Holy Trinity. And just like this, there are hundreds of facts about samosa that you haven’t heard of- one is of its origin.
Do you know that this much love snack does not have an Indian origin?
Samosas that you thought were your own actually is an immigrant from Central Asia and its origin lies thousands of miles away from India.
Central Asia to the world- the samosa travel is a must-know journey
The samosa was first originated in the 10th century in the Middle East region. The first official mention of the delight comes from Iranian historian Abolfazl Beyhaqi’s work Tarikh-e Beyhaghi, where he referred to it as ‘Sambosa’. It wasn’t as same as the modern-day Samosa but in fact was its ancestor in all ways including a provenance cousin of the Persian pyramidal pastry, ‘Samsa’. Names like sanbusak, sanbusaq, and even sanbusaj are also mentioned in the ancient texts.
Sambosa was a small triangular snack filled with minced meat and onions. Travelers usually carry them during the long journey as they were easy to pack in saddlebags. It was this mobility of Samosa that led its way through borders and kingdoms creating a fandom that no one can deny today. Thanks to the traveling merchants that the dish soon reached Central Asia to North Africa, East Asia, and South Asia.
When samosa reached the kingdoms of present-day India, it was first mentioned by the renowned Sufi poet and scholar of the Delhi Sultanate, Amir Khusro. He spoke about the delightful flavors of the dish among the royals that made samosa popular among the Indians. The accounts also credit the immigrant chefs that have traveled to Delhi for employment opportunities. These chefs would often prepare samosa among the royal meals for the royal court. As expected, Kings loved the snack and soon samosa became an integral part of royal cuisine.
The 14th-century traveler, Ibn Battuta mentioned the Sambosa being celebrated and cherished among the royal meal in the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq. According to him, the triangular snack was prepared with minced meat, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashew, and exotic spices to satisfy the taste buds of aristocratic peoples. It is also mentioned in the Mughal dynasty’s Ain-i-Akbari court, where the dish was commonly known as ‘Sanbusah’.
The recipe of Sanbusah is mentioned in the Mughal dynasty’s royal cookbook- ‘Nimatnamah-i-Nasirshahi’ or the ‘Book of Delights’. This book alone states the importance of Samosa among the royals of the yesteryears.
Samosa and potato- The perfect combo!
Meanwhile, in the rest of India, especially in western India, a new tuber was gaining popularity. This new tuber revolutionized the Indian palate and today the world cannot live without it. Introduced by the Portuguese called ‘Batata’, it was the core of the Inca empire’s food pyramid. In the following years, Batata came to be known as a potato.
From Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinners, potatoes transfigure the Indian cuisine. And just as this hero can save any dish, it so happened with the Sambosa as well. Today the potato-filled samosa is the most famous and integral palate among the Indian cuisine.
When the British came to India, they enjoyed the delight and along with the Indian diaspora, samosa also traveled with the colonial empire. And since then, samosa has spread throughout the world. Called by several names, each culture has its own kind of samosa. For instance, samosa in the Middle East is cooked with stuffed cheese, minced meat, herbs, and spices while in Israel it is made with mashed chickpeas and pine nuts. Uzbekistan on the other hand enjoys Uyghur-style samosas. Portugal and Brazil call samosas- ‘pasteis’.
But if you think that Samosa is only meat or a potato dish – then you might need to think again!
There are hundreds of varieties of Samosa in India alone. With each culture, tradition, and region- samosas have been transformed inside out. In Hyderabad, samosa is called ‘Lukhmi’ and is made with minced meat. While in Bengal, fish samosa is popularly stuffed with a filling of poached fish, herbs, seasonings, and mashed potatoes. While in Gujarat, samosas are prepared with cabbage, carrots, and curry leaves.
Chamuças are popular in Goa which is cooked by stuffed minced beef, chicken, and pork. The palate gets even more diverse with sweet samosas. A Bengali sweet called Labong Latika is yet another variant of samosa which is prepared by stuffing mawa and garnishing it with clove and sugar powder. The diverse variety of Samosa didn’t end here but is even prepared in thousand other varieties as well like- pizza samosa, chowmein samosa, cheese samosa, shahi paneer samosa, dal samosa, and even chocolate samosas!
Today samosa is the most important Indian snack. Be it a family gathering or just a friend’s hangout at the local ‘chaiwala’- the always go-to snack is samosa which is available at every corner of the street. The combo of tea and samosa is a chronicle of the flavoury romance of spicy, fried nibble with hot sizzling refreshment.