With numerous winter issues complicating our hurried lifestyle, another Diwali came and went by, leaving people with hopes of better fortunes. There’s a celebration at Trafalgar Square with music, dance and most importantly Diwali lights. People in the suburbs beautified the skies with sounds and colours of fireworks. Of late everyone has started enjoying this Indian festival of lights in London. The festival has also been accepted, understood and welcomed by the locals, especially children.
There’s another side to the excitement—the presence of wonderful sweets and crispy snacks in every Asian area. With its increased popularity, samosa has become the most-loved amongst all snacks. The National Samosa Week launched in Leicester this year was a great initiative where the six participating cities around Midlands sold samosas and donated the money for charity. The organisers of the event believed,“this triangular-shaped savoury snack could transcend all barriers and could unite different communities of the UK”.
Recently, celebrated filmmaker Leena Yadav was talking so emotionally about her favourite food memories and the samosa stories came up. She was in London for the premiere of her latest movie Rajma Chawal. The movie was shot at Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi where she had an amazing food from the streets and homes of local people who were a part of making the film. Like every foodie, she thinks “you get the best samosas and rajma chawal in those crowded streets and people were so passionate about cooking and feeding us that we ended up overeating.”
Most people I have met like samosas just like me and I can say this much. “I love them as much as my favourite south Indian snack vada.” In London, I have made countless trips to Shahenshah restaurant in Southall to eat their hot Punjabi samosas with yummy green chutney. Moreover, passing through Mumbai often gives the opportunity to taste authentic ones, even at the airport. Out of sheer curiosity to find more about the popular snack of India, I spoke to Chef Atif Bari from Pakistan about samosa fondness in their country.
Atif was full of excitement and nostalgia as he narrated a brief history of this timeless pastry treat. “Meat samosa is the ultimate thing to munch on for us in most celebrations. Liking them is beyond our times. Praise for samosa (sambusaj) was found in an Arabic poem in 9th century by the Persian poet Ishaq al-Mawsili and samosa recipes were even found in many Arabic cook books of that time. And our ancestors say Arab traders brought this everyday snack to most parts of South Asia, including India, during their business voyages.”
Art of making samosas is similar to any exceptional artist pouring his/her soul into the creativity, which always extracts wonders from their art. Perween Warsi was one such person who sold home-cooked samosas in the local Sunday market around Derby, and later became the largest Indian finger snack supplier for supermarkets like Asda. Warsi went on to win many accolades such as Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 1996. She was also included in the Queen’s Jubilee Honours List in 2002. She became the largest employer in the region and inspired many young Asian women to follow their dreams and make it big.
Like everything, the samosa world has also experienced tweaks as part of the snack expansion. They appear with new recipes, looks and imaginative ingredients. Many believe Indian version of samosas have the most appealing flavours with unique fillings. This story makes samosa the star of our cuisine, next to a world unified around it. Chef Vineet’s chocolate samosa is a proof of this.The author runs the London-based Rasa chain of restaurants