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Samosa, the Japanese way

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This week Rahul Verma discovers a link between poetry and samosa!

Not all food experiences work out well. Last week, I went in search of a man who, reader V.K. Arora assured me, made the most delicious brain curry in Jheel, a crowded part of Eastern Delhi. I went there, got lost in the crowd, almost collided with other cars in a mad traffic jam, and ended up coming home without being able to find the place I had gone in search of. It was a major disappointment, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I promised Jheel that I would be back. So when Jheel didn’t work out, I faithfully set out for Old Delhi the next day. A friend had been waxing eloquent about a shop that sold the most delicious aam papads.

It wasn’t quite my week, for I never did manage to locate that shop either. But, whoever it was who coined that phrase about clouds and silver linings knew what he or she was talking about. I didn’t find my aam papad – but I found a great shop for Japani samosas.

Readers may remember my earlier encounter with the Japani samosa. I first discovered this wonderful snack when I went to Manohar’s shop some years ago. Manohar had a little shop somewhere between Moti Cinema and the Lajpat Rai Market in Old Delhi.

That was the first time I ate a Japani samosa, and promptly fell in love with it. It’s a wonderful savoury – less like the samosa and more like a puff pastry. It doesn’t look like a samosa, nor does it taste like one. But it shares a common thread with the samosa – there is an outer case made with flour, and a filling. And like the samosa, which is often sold with an accompanying plate of chholey, the Japani samosa comes with a tasty side-dish.

Directions

The new place is in Chandni Chowk. If you walk towards Fatehpuri Masjid, you will find the famous sweet shop, Shiv Mishthaan Bhandar, on your right. There is a lane next to it, called Kucha Ghasiram.

Enter the lane, and you will find Arun Kamboj sitting on the ground with his Japani samosas. Arun’s Japani samosa is very, very good. The filling is of peas and potatoes, and it comes with some chholeys, onion rings, a carrot pickle, and raw mango with salt and chillies. The chholey is indeed delicious – a bit runny, and not the least bit oily. He boils his chholey first, and then tempers with masalas. One samosa with chholey comes for Rs.7. His chholey is so good that he also sells it with bhaturas, kulchas and a vegetable pulao. The name – Japani samosa – is still a mystery after all these years. Some old-timers believe that the snack – and therefore the name – emerged during the Second World War. I have started to believe that the name is a tribute to the Japanese people’s love for haikus, those wonderful short poems. The Japani samosa, indeed, is a poetic ode to creation. The savoury has its own magic – quite like that of the cherry trees in springtime.

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