I wasn’t crazy about Indian food until I became a vegetarian. Once I started down that path I began to look more closely at different cuisines and what they had to offer to non-meat eaters. And so began my journey of exploration into Indian, Mediterranean, and Thai cooking, among others– these cultures having strong vegetarian culinary traditions. It is one of those strange phenomena: one thinks one enters a narrow door and yet upon entering, whole new, vast worlds are revealed!
Samosas are a very popular Indian snack, but in fact they are not limited to India. They are present in various incarnations all over south and southeast Asia, the middle east and even parts of Africa, southern Europe and the Mediterranean. They are very commonly filled with spiced potato, peas and other vegetables, or mixed with chicken, beef or other meats. The Singaporean/Malaysian “curry puff” is very likely a close cousin to the samosa. And if we consider the empanada another relative, that expands the samosa’s genealogy throughout Iberia, South and Central America, and all across the Pacific to the Philippines.
The typical vegetarian samosa is made with a triangular pastry shell of fine wheat flour filled with a spicy mixture of potatoes, onions and green peas (the spice mix usually consists of cumin, coriander, garam masala, amchoor or mango powder, and chili). These are deep fried then dipped in a sweet sour tamarind chutney. I have not attempted to make these myself, as the ones that I get from TAJ, my neighborhood Indian grocer, are so good and very reasonably priced. Once we discovered them, they quickly became a favorite for parties, when unexpected guests arrive, and just a tasty take-out food for those days when cooking at home is not an option.