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.
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