The History Behind one of Durban’s Favourite Savoury Snack
Almost no function or menu in Durban is complete without the presence of the world famous samoosa. Whether the holy triangle of food, is filled with an old time favourite filling like mince, or given a new twist, like chicken and prawn, it’s still a culinary hit all over the world. You simply cannot live in Durban without knowing how delicious and addictive a samoosa can be – it really is the perfect savoury snack!
In South Africa, the local name that it was commonly referred to was the “drie hoekie koekie” although it’s been a while since we have heard that one! The samoosa has also been adapted to suit the local palate – fillings like cheese and corn, prawn, tin fish and soya mince can only be found in South Africa. The making and filling of a samoosa is an art form, and can only be perfected after much practise. There are local Indian vendors at flea markets like the Bangladesh market in Chatsworth Durban, who fill and fry the samoosa’s while you wait – it’s mesmerising!
“Karou Charou” at the Stables Market makes one of the best samoosas we have tasted. They also make these unique combinations:
• Chicken and Prawn
• Three Cheese and Corn, Spinach and Feta, Chickpea and Lentil and Tripe Gramdhal
Recently, we came across an interesting article about the history of the samoosa and had to share it with you. We were fascinated by it’s origin and how this simple savoury snack, has adapted to the tastes and is a favourite to people all over the world. We would love to know what your favourite filling of samoosa is, and who you think makes the best ones in Durban! Please tell us in the comment section below.
Here is the article written by Sa’adia Reza for Dawn.com an online blog in Pakistan. It is referred to as a “samosa” in Asia, so to keep the authenticity of the original article we did not change it.
“The Holy Triangle of Food” by Sa’adia Reza
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.
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.