Explainers

Anatomy of a dish: samosas

Crisp, spiced, addictive – these party stalwarts have humble origins.

By Joanna Hunkin
From pies and pasties to dumplings and pierogi, nearly every culture has its own take on stuffed and fried pastry. But the fragrant spiced filling of a samosa sets it apart from others, making it a party favourite around the world.
While most associate the samosa with Indian cuisine, variations of the crisp, golden pyramids can be found throughout Central Asia and North Africa. In fact, the name samosa is derived from the Persian word sanbosag and dates back to the 9th century. In India, the samosa was originally considered a peasant dish, before it evolved to become a beloved staple, with every region putting its own spin on the fillings and pastry ingredients.
Anatomy of a dish: samosas. Photo: Alicia Taylor

1. Pastry

Samosa pastry is traditionally made from flour and oil, which is rubbed together by hand. Adding a little water to the mix is also acceptable and results in a slightly chewier texture. The pastry is then deep-fried in vegetable oil, using a karahi – a traditional Indian steel pan, similar to a wok.

2. Filling

Traditionally, samosas are stuffed with either a spiced potato mix (aloo) or minced meat (kheema). Madhur Jaffrey's classic vegetarian recipe features peas, onion, ginger and green chilli, along with a variety of dried spices mixed with diced and boiled potatoes. Others choose to mash their potatoes, which contrasts nicely with the crisp pastry shell.

3. Accompaniments

The spice of a perfect samosa should speak for itself but the addition of a chutney or raita will take it to another level. Tamarind chutney brings a sweet-and-sour element to the flavour profile, while a traditional raita will temper
the heat of the chilli and cayenne pepper.

Where to find them

Harris Park is home to some of Sydney's best Indian food and you won't find a better samosa than at Taj Indian. In Melbourne, head to Delhi Streets on Katherine Place.