Citizens, your incomparable leader – the unique gourmand known globally as the mighty TFD! – has a long-standing love affair with the unique cuisine of Burma, also known as Myanmar. One famous Burmese snack is also enjoyed throughout India and the region: the unmatched samosa! 🙂
A samosa, sambusa, or samboksa is a fried or baked dish with a savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, macaroni, noodles, cheese, minced lamb or minced beef. Its size and consistency may vary, but typically it is distinctly triangular or tetrahedral in shape. Indian samosas are usually vegetarian, and often accompanied by a mint chutney.
Samosas are a popular entrée, appetizer or snack in the local cuisines of the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, the Mediterranean, the Indian subcontinent, the Horn of Africa, East Africa, North Africa and South Africa. Due to cultural diffusion and emigration from these areas, samosas in today’s world are also prepared in other regions.
The word “samosa” can be traced to the sanbosag (Persian: سنبوساگ). The pastry name in other countries can also derive from this root, such as the crescent-shaped sanbusak or sanbusaj in the Arab World, sambosa in Afghanistan, singara (Bengali: সিঙ্গারা) in Bengal, samosa (Hindi:समोसा) in India, samosa (Urdu: سموسا) in Pakistan, (Sindhi: سمبوسو Samboso/sambosa), samboosa in Tajikistan, samsa by Turkic-speaking nations, sambusa in the Horn of Africa, and chamuça in Goa, Mozambique and Portugal. While they are currently referred to as sambusak in the Arabic-speaking world, Medieval Arabic recipe books sometimes spell it sambusaj.
The term Samosa and its variants cover a family of pastries and dumplings popular from North-Eastern Africa to western China. An ancient recipe for samosa, widespread in the Near East and India, involves mixing 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of melted butter, 1 cup of warm water, and 1 teaspoon of salt with dough. A praise of samosa (as sanbusaj) can be found in a 9th-century poem by the Persian poet Ishaq al-Mawsili.
Recipes for the dish are found in the 10th-13th century Arab cookery books, under the names sanbusak, sanbusaq, and sanbusaj, all of which derive from the Persian word sanbosag. In Iran, the dish was popular until 16th century, but by the 20th century, its popularity was restricted to certain provinces (such as the sambusas of Larestan). Abolfazl Beyhaqi (995-1077), an Iranian historian, mentioned it in his history, Tarikh-e Beyhaghi.
Central Asian samsa were introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 13th or 14th century by traders from Central Asia. Amir Khusro (1253–1325), a scholar and the royal poet of the Delhi Sultanate, wrote in around c. 1300 CE that the princes and nobles enjoyed the “samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on”.
Ibn Battuta, a 14th-century traveler and explorer, describes a meal at the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq, where the samushak or sambusak, a small pie stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and spices, was served before the third course, of pulao. The Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century Mughal document, mentions the recipe for qutab, which it says, “the people of Hindustan call sanbúsah”.
Samosas are called samusas in Burmese, and are an extremely popular snack throughout Burma. They are smaller than their Indian cousins and are served with a sauce unique to the Burmese region. My vegetarian version’s filling is based closely on a recipe from a cafe in Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar though it has a few touches of TFD magic to it as well. 🙂 You can get curry leaves from any Indian grocery store or from Amazon. Chicken powder is also available on Amazon here.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Burmese Samosas – စမူဆာ
- For the dough:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ajwain seeds
- 1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup minus 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
- 1 cup peeled potatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 3 sprigs curry leaves
- 1/8 cup minced jalapeno
- 2 tsp. fresh mint, minced
- 4 tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 1/2 tsp. chicken powder
- 4 tsp. sugar
- 3 tsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. ajwain seeds, ground in a spice blender
- 12 pieces samosa skin
- equal parts cornstarch/water slurry, stirred before use
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Tamarind Sauce:
- 3 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. tamarind paste
- 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp. jaggery (Indian brown sugar) or honey
- 1 tbsp. mushroom dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 4 Thai bird’s eye chili (seeded if you like and minced)
- Use a medium bowl to prepare the dough. Begin by mixing the flour, ajwain, salt and oil with your hands, rubbing together thoroughly so the oil gets incorporated into every bit of the flour (this will yield a flaky dough).
- Slowly add the water until you form a ball of dough, adding more water if needed. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes until smooth. Wrap it in plastic and set it aside for 20 min.
- To make the samosa filling, dice the potatoes and boil in a pan of water until they are soft. Add vegetable oil to a pan and sauté the chopped onion until it is golden. Add the rest of the ingredients (including drained potato but not the samosa skins) and stir until the mixture gets fairy dry. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove curry leaves and discard.
- Divide the dough into four small balls. Roll each ball into a circle about 5 inches wide. Cut each circle in half. Each half moon will yield one samosa. You should end up with 8 half moons.
- For each half moon: dip your finger in the cornstarch/water paste and run along the edges and place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center. Roll into a triangular shape, making sure to seal the edges tightly. Set aside on a floured surface. Work quickly to prevent the samosas from drying out.
- For the ultimate crispy flaky samosa, fry them twice: once at 350°F and the second time around at 375°F.
- If you plan on freezing samosas, fry them just once. Let cool and freeze. Remove from the hot oil and drain them on absorbent paper.
- Place the tamarind paste in a bowl and add about 2 ½ tbsp of lukewarm water. Mash with fork to extract the tamarind and then strain off to get the tamarind juice. Place the extracted tamarind juice and everything else in a bowl and mix well. Given it a taste, it should be sour, sweet, spicy and salty all at the same time.
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