According to Webster’s, a samosa is, “a small pastry turnover of Indian origin filled with a spicy meat or vegetable mixture as of potatoes and peas.” Originating in Central Asia it is found in numerous shapes and variations all over the world. The major samosa avatars that weave their magic over tastebuds the world over are......


The samosa is arguably the most enduring of Indian snacks. Traditionally samosas in India have triangular or conical shapes. Savoury samosas are usually served with a chutney of some sorts. It is inevitably encountered in chaat shops across the land and there are some halwais who take greater pride in their samosa than anything else.

In fact, it is in the lanes and by-lanes of cities and towns, village and highway chai-shops along the length and breadth of India, that one can truly appreciate the versatility of the samosa. There are the large, somewhat plump North Indian variety stuffed with potatoes, pomegranate and raisins, the sweetness of the latter off-set by the characterful pungency of cumin. In the narrow allies of Ahmedabad's Karanj area, shops like "Bera Samosa" do a brisk business from the spicy mince-filled miniature triangles being fried in enormous woks. The Bihari mithaiwala has his own version with a thick-cased variety filled with ginger-seasoned potatoes livened up by chopped green chilli. The Bengali shingara is made with a light puff-pastry that melts away to release the flavours of subtly seasoned potatoes or cauliflower.

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Sanbusak / Sambusa

Extolled in poems recited in the courts of Abassid Caliphs in 16th century Baghdad, these savoury pastries are particularly popular in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan & Syria. Traditional sanbusak are shaped like half moons and sprinkled with sesame seeds, usually with edges crimped or marked with fingernails.

The usual Arab sanbusak is filled with meat, onions, & perhaps nuts or raisins, but Sanbusak bil Loz is tuffed with a mixture of ground almonds, sugar and rose or orange blossom water. In Iraq and Arabia dates are also a common filling. These pastries were still made in Iran as late as the 16th Century, but they have disappeared from most of the country today, surviving only in certain provinces: e.g. the triangular walnut-filled sambusas made in Larestan. However the Iranians of Central Asia, the Tajiks, still make a wide-variety of sambusas including round, rectangular and small almond shaped ones. In Afghanistan, where the name is sambosa, it is made both in half-moon shapes and triangles. The filling is traditionally ground meat with herbs and spices although halva and rasins are often used as well.

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In the Turkish-speaking nations where it is called samsa (& variants) it is made both in half-moon shapes and triangles. Sedentary Turkish people such as the Uzbeks and in Turkey itself, people usually bake their samsas, but nomads such as the Kazakhs fry them. Occasionally, samsas will be steamed, particularly in Turkmenistan.

In Central Asia the versions made with rough puff pastry (waraqi samsa, sambusai varaqi) are filled with meat. Those made with plain dough (leavened or unleavened) maybe filled either with meat or fillings such as diced pumpkin, chickpeas, herbs, wild greens, fried onions, mushrooms or dried tomatoes.

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