Today, the Indian samosa is a dish as diverse as India itself. The shape and the pastry are among the only constants, to be fair though, even the pastry changes a little bit depending on the area and region. Which is why, in the modern day, the word samosa refers more to an entire family of pastries rather than one singular food item. In Central Asia, for instance, where they are still called samsa, crusts are thicker and crumblier, and fillings are traditionally meatier, with mince and onion, as in the early days.
It’s in India, though, where the deep-fried triangles became spicy and had potato added to the filling. The coriander, pepper, caraway seeds, and other staples we taste today were all introduced throughout the Indian subcontinent over hundreds of years of culinary exploration. So, while it may be the pastry that first indicates a samosa, it’s the filling that truly defines what type of samosa you are eating.
Another popular dish is samosa chaat, a legendary snack, which is arguably the most popular street food in India. In this dish, the samosa is broken into bite-sized pieces and served up with masala, chutney, a variety of spices, and plenty of other trimmings, depending on the chef. This is another one that can be made at home, and with so many spices and sauces to try, the range for experimentation is great! Did we tell you that this is a special favorite with kids!
The Western samosa often uses green chillies for both heat and flavor–but these weren’t even available for the dish until the discovery of the New World, when Portuguese traders began to bring the spicy peppers back with them. And of course, in the Punjab region, a samosa simply wouldn’t be a samosa without paneer. Peas were popularly introduced to the filling by Moroccans, while chickpeas replaced potatoes in Israel and surrounding areas.
This incredible diversity is representative of the lasting simplicity and deliciousness of the samosa. The dish has truly stood the test of time and managed not only to traverse the world, but also to reinvent itself time after time right at home.