Dilli Diaries: How A Middle Eastern Snack Became Delhi’s Beloved Samosa

The national capital, Delhi, is a city of many cultures, traditions, and even ethnicities. And that invariably means that our food too is a spectrum of flavours from across the country and the world. Delhi’s street food, for instance, is a harmonious blend of vada pavs, pav bhaji, mughlai parathas, desi Chinese, momos, parathas, thukpa, and so much more. One such street food that you’ve been devouring in the name of desi, but isn’t actually from Delhi or India for that matter – samosa.

That’s right, all these years your palate has been living a lie, thinking that the deep-fried potato-stuffed crunchy snack is Indian when it’s actually a preparation that finds its roots in the Middle East, where they were originally called sambosas. So, how and when exactly did the sambosa become samosa?


History of The Samosa

Major credits for transporting the filled pastry-snack from the Middle East to Central Asia go to 13th and 14th century traders. A number of manuscripts have documented the (now) street snack’s journey across Asia.

According to the popular royal poet of the Delhi Sultanate, Amir Khusro, in around c. 1300 CE the princes and nobles enjoyed the “samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on”. Meanwhile, in an account penned by 14th century traveler and explorer, Ibn Batuta, the samosa was 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.

That said, the samosa’s odyssey was not limited to the Indian subcontinent. It went on to gain popularity in many other regions including Southeast Asia, Portugal, North Africa, and even the Horn of Africa as the samsa, somsa, somosa, somucha, sambosak, sambusa, sambuksa, and by various other names.Dilli Diaries: How A Middle Eastern Snack Became Delhi's Beloved SamosaImage Source


Here & There

While originally the dish was mostly an ornate preparation filled with rich stuffing like meats and dry fruits, Delhi’s street-style rendition is comparatively lighter and less elaborate. Served with a side of chutney, the usual samosa stuffing in the Capital is made of mildly-spiced boiled potatoes mixed with peas, paneer, peanuts, etc. A few other variants also include the likes of hot sams stuffed with cheese, noodles, minced meat (keema) or soya chunks, macaroni, and the likes.

In addition to pimping up the fillings, Delhiites also often enjoy a plateful of samosa chaat or chhole samosa, which is a samosa decked with whipped curd, spices, spiced chickpeas (chhole), green chillies, and chutney.

Dilli Diaries: How A Middle Eastern Snack Became Delhi's Beloved SamosaImage Source

From being a highly coveted royal meal to a widely-devoured street snack, the versatile samosa has satiated the hunger of millions over the centuries. The dish has crossed borders, religions, and cultures, which is probably why there is no snack out there that can trump a plateful of piping hot samosa and chutney!

All this talk of samosa has got us drooling all over, here are all the places where you can find us binging on some delicious piping hot sams in Delhi.


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