#26: For the Love of Food (and Travel): The Humble Samosa is a Gastronomic Delight
Welcome to the latest issue of For the Love of Food (and Travel), part of Being Curious, which is a newsletter for people who are insanely curious about the world around them.
My foodie side is not a side I can ignore. I’m so passionate about what my next meal is going to be that it can annoy people. Food is exciting. Good food warms my soul and makes everything better. This sub-publication is an ode to the first love of my life—food.
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Hello, my Being Curious tribe!
This week I ordered some samosas for myself, and I couldn’t help thinking that a tribute to this traditional Indian snack was long overdue.
I ate my first samosa when I was three years old, and I’ve spent the next 30 years relishing this ubiquitous snack, which can be found anywhere from the humble thelas (roadside stalls) of Mumbai’s streets and school/college cafeterias to some of the city’s famous theaters and iconic hotels and restaurants.
At INR 10-12, it’s one of the cheapest snacks you’ll find on Mumbai’s street corners. You’ll often see daily wage workers or office goers gulping one down outside train stations. Step into some of India’s famous hotels and restaurants, and you’ll see the price of the samosa skyrocket.
You rarely need a special occasion to have a samosa. A family gathering, a house party, a religious festival, or a fun night with friends—the samosa can be had anytime, anywhere.
Before the pandemic, one of my favorite weekend activities was watching a movie in a theater or cinema hall. While popcorn was nice to munch on, for me, it was always the samosa. So, I can safely say I have tried over 10 varieties of samosas. The recipe may be the same, but the taste is wildly different depending on who prepares it and which movie theater you go to.
In many ways, it’s a dish that helps strangers become friends and makes fans like me fall in love with it all over again.
Apologies, I've let my taste buds get the better of me and forgotten to provide a crucial piece of information. If you're not familiar with a samosa, it’s a fried or baked pastry with a savory filling like spiced potatoes, onions, and peas. Usually, it’s triangular shaped, but its shape can vary by region.
Surprisingly, our favorite Indian snack was never ours. Its roots can be traced back to Central Asia and the Persian word sanbosag. It’s an appetizer that has travelled far and wide, from Central Asia to India, adapting to the locals’ tastes and garnering immense popularity along the way.
There are several regional varieties depending on which part of Asia and the Middle East you travel to. In Tajikistan, for example, it’s called sambusa baraki, which is a traditional Tajik pastry stuffed with meat. In parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the sambousek is quite famous. Sometimes, the fillings even contain spinach, cheese, or different types of meat.
The list goes on and on.
But nothing beats the traditional vegetable samosa you get in India because it’s packed with flavor, thanks to the presence of Indian spices.
No matter which part of India you travel to, the humble (or not so humble) samosa comes to your rescue when those hunger pangs leave you craving for something hot, spicy, and crispy. Enjoy a cup of hot masala chai (tea) alongside the samosa, and you’ve tasted two of the culinary gems of India.
Savor the samosa slowly so that you can enjoy the taste of the spicy potato and peas filling and the crunchiness of the deep-fried, crispy exterior.
It can be eaten in many ways.
You can keep it simple and just enjoy it with chai and chutney. You can choose to pour generous spoonfuls of lip-smacking chole (spicy chickpea-based curry) onto your samosas. Or you can even take the recipe a few notches higher by adding some yoghurt onto the chole and chutney. It then becomes a samosa chaat.
The next time you’re in Mumbai, don’t forget to try out the samosas and/or chole at some of the popular restaurants recommended in the links above.
Not surprisingly, all that talk of samosas is making me crave some.
So, I’m going to go grab one right now.
I’ll see you next week, folks!
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Photo credits and copyright: Kritika Kulshrestha