CHITRA BALASUBRAMANIAM goes on a samosa trail in Delhi and discovers a mind-boggling range of the deep-fried snack.
I begin with the bite-sized samosas. In off-beat Shanti Mohalla, near Gandhi Nagar market, which is a haven for export fabrics, I am offered these very light samosas. Investigation reveals they are made by Vinod Kumar, who hails from Farrukkhabad; hence the name Farrukkhabadi samose. The filling is mashed potatoes, to which salt and red chilly powder are added. Vinod Kumar says, “I keep the masalas light.”
Then, the larger samosas. Weighing between 300 to 350 gms each, these samosas are from the classy Embassy Restaurant in the genteel environs of Lutyens Connaught Place, Inner Circle. Sunil Malhotra, partner of the restaurant, says, “We have been serving these samosas for over 60 years now. Since we were open throughout the day, there was a necessity to offer snacks. So serving normal samosas was not an option, which is why this large size was experimented with. It was an instant hit.” The takeaway outside serves the traditional samosa filled with cubed potatoes, paneer pieces and matar (peas), with loads of green chillies. It is hot on the palate, and the flavours reflect Punjabi cuisine from across the border. Inside, the restaurant also serves two variants — one filled with pindi chole and the other, mutton.
From the heartland of Punjab to the Bengali bastion of Chittaranjan Park, here one gets the Singharas as samosas are called. Cubed potatoes fried with groundnuts, boiled chick peas and coconut bits make the filling. Dadu’s Cutlet in C.R. Park, Market 2, sells wonderful singharas— but only in the evening.
Offering Allahabadi samosas is Bengali Sweet House at Bengali Market, Connaught Place. Girish Aggarwal, managing partner, says, “These are filled with well-fried dal, which give the samosas a long shelf life and make them ideal for travel.” How small? A kg of the samosas contains around 100 pieces.
In season only!
The gastronomical belly of Delhi — Chandni Chowk — follows a thumb rule. The samosas here are made of only seasonal vegetables, the perennial potato being an exception.
Ravi Tewari, owner of Tewari Bros, opposite Allahabad Bank, is very knowledgeable on sweets from all over India and makes a range of samosas. Siya Ram, the samosa specialist, says, “We make Mewa samosa with dal, kaju, kishmish which is fried and ground into fine powder for the filling. There are also the gobhi, gajar and green peas varieties, with special handmade masala.” A personal quirk which Siya Ram has introduced is a jala-like design on the samosa. This results in the samosa having a double layer. The samosas are not heavily spiced, a take-off from Kanpur, where Tewari hails from.
Then there is the theekha (spicy) gobhi samosa at Kanwarji Bhagirath Mal Dal Beeji Wale. With over 150 years of tradition, the samosa is still prepared traditionally, with the special masala made in-house. Roop Narain Gupta, who belongs to the fifth generation of the family, says, “These samosas can last for four days.” The masala is finely ground and the gobhi is dunked into it.
A reference has to be made to the Japani Samosa of Manohar. The shop dates back to 1949, and traces its origins to 1924 in Lahore. Umesh Kumar Ratra, running the place today, has no clue as to why it is called Japani. It could probably be due to the paper-fan-like shape of the samosa. Umesh adds, “It has a total of 60 layers. The samosa is more like a lump. On being fried it opens up like a flower giving it its unique shape.” Alu, matar and very little spice seep through the incredibly crisp layers. This is served with delicious, piping hot pindi chane and an interesting pickle of lauki (bottle gourd) and mango.
And if that sets the tongue on fire, stroll back to Tewari Sweets for their sweet samosas. The small samosas are filled with khoya and dry fruits, deep-fried and then dipped in chashni or sweet syrup. They are decorated with slivers of almonds and pistachios.