Who walks into an Indian food store and doesn’t come out with a samosa? These golden packages at the counter promise to bring to life all those exotic raw spices lining the shelves behind you. An instant masala burst for a dollar or two.
Samosa has been in India a long time. It is based on the Arab sambusak, a delicate triangular pastry filled with the fruit, nut and meat combinations associated with the Middle East. By the 1200s much of North India was under Muslim rule and these Persian delicacies spread south into the Indian sub-continent.
Over time they became more of a robust portable snack (like the Cornish pasty). They attracted an Indian spice mix and – following the discovery of the New World – potatoes and chillies became an essential part of the common samosa. The samosa went global with the Indian diaspora. (Read more on the samosa evolution here on bbc.com)
So that’s the samosa. Samosa chaat takes these delicious morsels, smashes them into pieces and smothers them with a chickpea masala, yogurt, tamarind and coriander chutney and crunchy sev (strands of fried chickpea flour) topping. It’s amazing.
I’m delving into south Asian food in my Auckland neighbourhood of Sandringham, and in the spirit of foodster, I’m trying to find the story that goes with the food.
Chaat is a group of Indian snack dishes that bring together different textures and flavours.
It is also casual social food, eaten between larger meals so going for a chaat is like going for a coffee. It is loved by commuters and those at leisure alike, often sold streetside by chaat wallah (vendors) who have been trading at busy city spots for generations.
Common features are they include crispy parts like bits of dough, chickpea or lentil, puffed rice or peanuts. They often have yogurt, tamarind chutney, coriander, lemon, or raw red onion for that contrast of sour, tangy, fresh.
More chaat to come… next time from the beaches of Mumbai.
Samosa chaat can be sampled at the following chaat wallahs in Auckland:
Mumbai Chaat, 1 Kitchener St, Sandringham
Just off Sandringham Road roughly opposite the new Lord Kitchener pub, this offers a full range of Mumbai street food cooked by a family hailing from Mumbai.
Saattveek, 570 Sandringham Road, Sandringham
The light blue restaurant on the corner of Calgary St, this has a range of snacks and dishes from Maharashtra, the 120-million-population province that Mumbai is part of.