Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

samosa (samoosa) are small, crisp, flaky pastries made in India, usually fried but sometimes baked. They are stuffed with a variety of fillings such as cheese, cheese and egg, minced meat with herbs and spices, vegetables such as potatoes, etc. Sweet fillings are also popular. Samosas are usually eaten as a snack, often as a street food.

The Indian version is merely the best known of an entire family of stuffed pastries or dumplings popular from Egypt and Zanzibar to C. Asia and W. China. Arab cookery books of the 10th and 13th centuries refer to these pastries as sanbusak (the pronunciation still current in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon), sanbusaq, or sanbusaj, all reflecting the early medieval form of this Persian word: sanbosag. Claudia Roden (1968) quotes a poem by Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Mausili (9th century) praising sanbusaj. An ancient and widespread recipe for the dough in both India and the Near East is: ‘1 coffee cup of oil, 1 coffee cup of melted butter, 1 coffee cup of warm water, 1 teaspoon of salt. Add and work in as much flour as it takes.’