fried wonders

A short history of the samosa

The samosa is the most delicious little immigrant South Asia has ever seen.

Here’s a shocker: our very own samosa was never ours. You read that right. The neatly folded, tightly packed savoury goodness that we thought belonged to South Asian soil actually travelled here all the way from Central Asia centuries ago. But thanks to its amazing social networking skills, it cleverly adapted to the local’s tastes and happily settled among its culinary brethren and became one of them.

This is one food that has travelled far and wide, and like any popular traveller has left its footprints along the way. From Egypt to Libya and from Central Asia to India, the stuffed triangle with different names has garnered immense popularity. Originally named samsa, after the pyramids in Central Asia, historical accounts also refer to it as sanbusak, sanbusaq or even sanbusaj, all deriving from the Persian word, sanbosag. In South Asia, it was introduced by the Middle Eastern chefs during the Delhi Sultanate rule, although some accounts credit traders for bringing the fare to this part of the world. Nevertheless, from its humble beginnings ‒ in older days, people would cook the mince-filled triangles over campfire and eat them as snacks during travel ‒ samosa has come a long way. And after having earned the blessings of the Indian royalty, the snack soon became food fit for the king.

Today, samosa is a popular snack in many parts of the world. Perhaps its biggest secret to popularity and survival over the centuries is its different varieties of fillings catering to carious tastes across the globe. In Kazakhstan, for example, a somsa is typically baked and has a thicker, crumblier crust. Fillings generally range from minced lamb and onions, meat, and even pumpkin. The Hyderabadi luqmi, on the other hand, is strictly meat-filled and far crustier than the regular samosa consumed elsewhere in India and Pakistan. In the Middle East, the semicircular sambusak is stuffed with feta cheese, onions, minced chicken and meat, spinach, and in case of Jewish cuisine, mashed chickpeas.

Perfect snack

But for us, samosa is the gorgeous, deep fried, twisted pack of spicy goodness that oozes with chicken, meat or potato. Few family gatherings or iftar parties are complete without this signature snack. And what does one do when guests arrive at a short notice? You guessed right. There are few snacks that couple as perfectly with tea as samosa, and the chai-samosa team is probably the reason behind thousands of brain-storming sessions and heated discussions. Be it an evening chat with friends at the street corner khoka, or a sophisticated business meeting in an air-conditioned room, the call for a samosa remains a constant. What can be better than biting into a hot, karahi-fried, chutney-coated snack, inhaling in its herb-essenced scent, munching on spicy, meat / vegetable filling, crunching on a coriander seed, tasting that teasing taste of ginger-garlic … you get the picture.


The diet conscious ‒ and to be fair, the health conscious, too ‒ would sigh, and perhaps nibble at the tiny piece of the crisp pastry to satisfy their craving. Not that you can blame them; who would have thought that one serving of potato-filled samosa is laden with around 300 calories? Even those tiny, bite-size ones have 28 calories each. And we have all discovered much to our dismay that it’s impossible to stop at one. One bite a time, and before you know it, you’ve covered half your calorie quota for the day with just two samosas!

Looks so easy

When I was studying at university, one of our favourite pastimes would be to hang around a canteen that serves ‒ and I stand by it ‒ the best samosas on the face of this earth. But for me, the most fascinating aspect was watching workers at the canteen fill those samosas. In one fluid movement, they would flip a samosa patti into an inverted cone, fill the pocket with stuffing, and flip the patti over to form a smooth bulging triangle. Encouraged by how easy it looked, I decided to try it at home, only to discover that the art of samosa-making is no mean task. Rest assured, my respect for the workers increased multi-fold.

But for those, who are willing to toil and master the art, the varieties they can experiment with knows no limits. From the regular, meat/potato stuffing to spinach, corn and peas, to sweet halwa or coconut filling, the list is endless. The adventurous few may even want to foray into seafood samosas. Just dip them into chutney of your choice (those who even imagine samosas with ketchup, please reassess your priorities), and savour the taste that has weaved its magic forever.

This article originally appeared on Dawn.com.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.