A food story of Indian snack by Indo-Islamic Culture
Samosa, one of the most popular Indian snack is triangular fried savory made up of white flour (Maida) filled with potatoes, peas & lentils. The North Indian version is little big larger in size in comparison with other places in India. The another version of Samosa can be found in walled city of Delhi, Hyderabad, & cities of Pakistan is filled with minced meat, & chicken. However when we traced the old culinary accounts & write ups, the roots of this hyperlocal savory is located somewhere in Middle East. Abolfazl Beyhaqi, an eleventh century Persian historian mentioned it in his book” Tarikh-e Beyhaghi” regarding this savory. He described this as a snack that was relished in the mighty court of Ghaznavid empire. It seems to be introduced to the Indian subcontinent the 13th or 14th century from Central Asia.
The word Samosa (Hindi समोसा /Urdu سموسہ ) can be traced to the Persian word Sambosag ( سنبوساگ). Even today in Arab world, one can find multiple variants of the Sambusak from filling of minced meat to the sweet dry fruits fillings. The culinary account from the 10th to 13th centuries Arab world mentioned recipes of Sambosak. An article of BBC Magazine ( 2016) articulate in length the story of its migration from Arab world to Central Asian & then crossing the Hind Kush mountains to the Indian Subcontinent. Lets review the glimpses of the historical narratives of our hyperlocal snack.
Over the following centuries the samosa made its way over the icy passes of the Hindu Kush and into the Indian subcontinent.
What happened along the way explains why Professor Pant regards the samosa as the ultimate “syncretic dish” – the ultimate fusion of cultures.
The story of India as told by a humble street snack, Justin Rowlatt, June 2016 Retrieved from
A culinary account titled ” Foundations of Ethnobotany: 21st century perspectives by Sudhir Chandra” gave some historical narratives of this hyperlocal snack: “According to Amir Khusro (Urdu poet of Delhi) 1300 AD observed that the royal set of Delhi like Samosa prepared “rom meat, ghee & onions”. Ibn Battuta (renowned traveler, 1334 AD) wrote about Sambusaki (minced meat cooked with almonds, pistachios, onions, spices placed inside the thin envelope of wheat & deep fried in desi Ghee. The samosa recieved Royal stamp in Ain-I-Akbari”.
Again we can find a Amir Khusrow famously framed the riddle (do sukhane):
“Samosa kyun na khaya? Joota kyun na pehna? “Talaa na tha.”
[Translation: Why wasn’t the samosa eaten? Why wasn’t the shoe worn? the shoe didn’t have a sole (also called talaa.)
Niʻmatnāmah-i Nāṣirshāhī (Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights) written for Sultan of Malwa Ghiyas al-Din Khilji (1469-1500) has recipes for Samosa with illustrations showing cows being milked (right) and Sultan Ghiyas al-Din seated on his throne (left), attended by servants.
A recipe for samosa translation from the Niʻmatnāmah-i Nāṣirshāhī (Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights):English translation by “Norah Titley ” an expert of Persian manuscript who worked at British Library . Source:
“Mix together well-cooked mince with the same amount of minced onion and chopped dried ginger, a quarter of those, and half a tūlcha [a measure] of ground garlic and having ground three tūlchas of saffron in rosewater, mix it with the mince together with aubergine pulp. Stuff the samosas and fry (them) in ghee. Whether made from thin course flour bread or from fine flour bread or from uncooked dough, any of the three (can be used) for cooking samosas, they are delicious”
Asian & African Studies Blog, British Library, Retrieved from
According to Abul Fazal, the legendary author of Ain-i-Akbari & one of the gems of the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court: “the Sambusak was relished by the Mughals & mainly non-vegetarian“. It was Portuguese who brought the potatoes to Indian subcontinent & the Samosa got its most popular filling.
Now in contemporary India many regional variations are found. In East Indian states ( Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, & Jharkhand, one can find a smaller version with fine cut cooked potatoes mixed with pea nuts, raisins, & cashew. Its popular with the term “Singhara”. As we moved to the Deccan (Hyderabad), the city of erstwhile Nizams, here you will find more like primitive or its middle eastern congener (Sambosa) that is more like a flakes & filled with minced meat. Here it got the name “Luqma” that has Urdu origin known as bite.
While moving to the Punjabi “dhabas’, and street stalls, it is served with a chick pea curry called ‘channa’. A type of the Chaat samosa popular as Samosa Chaat is topped with yoghurt, tamarind chutney, finely chopped onions, and masala. In Mumbai, the local snack, the Paav version of Samosa is quite popular.
Now back in Middle East, the Sambusak still hold the ground as one of the widely popular snack. When the month of fasting, the Ramzan (Ramdan) arrived, the Sambusak got the lead over all other popular snacks. On snack shops you can find the endless number of Sambusak preparations from sweet form to the meat minced sub types along with vegetarian sub type made up of potatoes, onions, carrots, lentils & cheese.