It’s the season for samosas

Samosas certainly have their fan bases, both abroad and in the country. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan  

Who in their right mind would say no to a samosa? Chaat, and in particular samosas, in the city may be hard to find; Chennai is not the first place that comes to your mind when you think of them. But in my quest for uncovering those delicious triangular pockets filled with mashed potato and peas and fried a crisp golden-brown, I stumbled upon shops, some small, some popular, some nameless but most offering the perfect snack for this season. 

At 4.30 p.m. on a weekday, Bombay Lassi is teeming with office-goers, last minute movie-catchers stopping for a quick snack and regulars who are carefully tearing apart hot samosas on their leaf plates. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Ellis Road, behind Devi Theatre, the 42-year-old shop has its share of dedicated customers, even some who come from the other end of the city for their famed samosas. Served with two kinds of sauces — one a sweet, dark brown, the other, a tangy bright green, the crunchy, exterior is no match for the snooty, superior European pastry; the samosa here is a must-have. Or as one colleague puts it, “If you’re watching a movie at Devi theatre, then it has to be followed by a samosa at Bombay Lassi.” He couldn’t have been more right.

The widely favoured samosa, it is said, came to India during the 13th or 14th Century through Central Asian traders. While India is not the only country to have its own version of filled dough treats that are deep fried or baked, samosas certainly have their fan bases, both abroad and in the country.

On Valluvar Kottam High Road, the 25-year-old Tirunelveli Halwa Stall is one of those shops that stands out. Every table — there are four tables that are jammed together — is occupied and there is a long snaking queue that runs past the dental clinic four shops away. The ambience is not fancy — the walls are painted a fading white and red, the chairs are in a disarray, and there’s a retro-looking counter full of sweets and snacks.

M.V.L. Manikantan, a regular here for more than 10 years says that he used to frequent the place since his school days. “The samosa has such a unique, spicy masala which has not changed over the years and the fact that they make it fresh in the morning and evening is a big bonus.”

One has to keep in mind that the charm of the samosa (or any chaat) comes from the fact that it’s made on the streets; no fuss, nothing fancy and quite easy to miss. A hole-in-the-wall shop on Perambur Barracks Road (it’s on the left when you come in from Doveton signal), where you have to stand on small bricks that double up as a pavement, serves unusal samosas.

The masala is packed with whole mint leaves and the outer pastry is studded with ajwain, that gives off a wonderful flavour, and when you’re shoving down samosas every other day in the name of research, a little ajwain (or carom seeds) helps in digesting all those deep-fried goodies.

Long-time Adyar resident, Venkateswaran Ganesan, swears by the samosas at Grand Sweets. While it does sound puzzling that the 32-year-old institution which specialises in thokkus, podis, and kuzhipaniyarams also makes a North Indian snack, Venkateswaran says that the samosa they make is quite delectable. “The filling is less spicy and the addition of cashews adds to the taste.” But the real delight he says is found near Adyar Bakery on Sardar Patel Road.

“The shop has no name but has been around for almost 30 years. It’s a small shop and one might miss it easily but between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., when the shop is open, you get everything from samosas and cutlets to omapodi and the place is always crowded.”

Of course, the mere mention of chaat in Chennai has one heading out to Sowcarpet. And in a place that feels like a mini-Rajasthan you’re never out of choices. There’s Agarwal Bhavan that smells of jalebis and samosas being fried in fat, all the time. Or you can try out Ajab; it also has a branch in Fountain Plaza called Ajnabi that is always crowded irrespective of day, date or time. Or just explore the area because you’re bound to find every other shop selling these little triangles.

What spells a rainy day better — a cup of tea and a plate of samosas?

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 3:45:42 PM |

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