Samsa – Finding Samosa’s Distant Cousin in the Alleys of Leh

Samsa Leh

Kashmir Gali is a small alley adjoining Leh Market. The Ladakhi name for this lane is a little complicated like most of the Ladakhi names. During my time in Leh, while I was researching on Snow Leopards and their behavior, this road used to serve as a shortcut between Chubi and the main Leh Market. Every morning as I would pass from the road, fresh aroma of Kashmiri Kulcha and cookies would entice my nostrils. These snacks are often treated as breakfast items are best tasted when dipped in tea. Kulcha is one of the popular mouth-watering cuisines of Kashmir. When returning from office, I used to visit this alley again just for a specialty that one of the shops used to prepare. He claims that you won’t find this heavenly delight anywhere else in India. He is probably right, Samsa is one of a kind food sold in one of a kind alley in one of a kind city in the world. For me this small lane is one of the best places to eat in Ladakh.

Kashmiri Kulcha

Samosa as we know it arrived in India in early 14th century from the Middle East. The modern triangular essential Indian snack was not always filled with fried potato. Amir Khusro wrote that in 1300 CE, the royals of Delhi Sultanate enjoyed Sambosa. It was prepared in fried ghee and had fillings of minced meat.

Mutton Samsa

This classic version of Samosa is gone from almost every corner of the market and its description only exist in old manuscript, Wikipedia or in the street food markets of Iran and Afghanistan where this dish is eaten with much charm and love. In India, the version of Samosa filled with keema is still found in the markets of Chandni Chowk, New Delhi and Shivaji Nagar, Bangalore. But they are far away from the shape and size it arrived in the 14th century. I was somehow lucky to find the actual mutton samsa in Leh.

Samsa 2

Samsa’s basic preparation technique is similar to how samosa is made. Both of them have the outer filling made of flour with the difference being that samsa’s crust is cut in a cylindrical shape. The fresh minced meat is mixed with some herbs and spices that the chef likes to keep secret. I was, however, able to taste cinnamon and coriander. The filling is delicately put inside the crust and is then heated inside…..wait for it…. A tandoor. Yes, Samsa is not fried but baked. The baking keeps the taste of the meat and the herbs intact and the flavour stays in your mouth long after you are done eating it.

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Kashmir Gali is inhibited by Kashmiris. These folks are living here from generations. While mutton samsa is the specialty of this place and is hard to find. The shop owner stops preparing it after Bakri-Eid. I was just lucky to be at the right spot at the right place.

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Mutton Samsa was an amazing find in Leh. The piece of delicious, flavourful wonder costs on INR 12 for a piece. Samsa and the kind gentlemen of Kashmir Gali have become a part of my fond memories of the time I spent in Leh. I hope the weather stays cold and the heart of the residents stays as warm as it has always been.

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