Porcupyn's Blog

November 2, 2009

On samosas … and an enterprising vendor

Filed under: Travel — Porcupyn @ 1:42 pm

So there we were, waiting at a station platform for our train – the mighty Karnataka Express with two engines and 24 compartments – to arrive. Not having had much of a chance to taste authentic roadside food😉 the last few trips to India, this time I thought I might as well check it out, especially since I had already digested most of the full lunch I had eaten at home before starting out.

As luck would have it, the food stall at the platform was making fresh kachories; however, my eyes were on the samosas. Obviously, I wanted steaming hot samosas. So, I asked the shopkeeper how long would it be before he would make hot samosas. He replied that right now they were working on kachories; how many did I want? I said that all I wanted was a couple. “No problem,” he said.

Even as my eyes were roving around for a microwave (with the country improving by leaps and bounds, I felt that that thought was not as far-fetched as it appears), he took two samosas that were ready for sale and dunked them into the hot oil. After a couple of minutes, I held two hot, refried, dripping-oil-onto-an-old-newspaper-fragment samosas in my hands. Of course, I enjoyed them (Mrs. Porcupyn averted her eyes – not only could she not eat those savories herself, she could not bear to see me eat them either), though I had to drain a teaspoonful of oil just before I had the last bite (no, I am NOT kidding)!

Now, in hindsight, I wonder whether that approach would have worked in the USA? Probably not. Had I had asked for hot Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts (see picture here and a video here) when french crullers were being made, the answer would have been an unequivocal “No” or “Please come back tomorrow morning at 6 am” or some such. Score one for the enterprising Indian shopkeeper(s).

PS: The hot refried platform samosas having whetted my appetite for samosas, I could not contain myself and helped myself to a few more at different station halts during the course of our 20-hour journey. Even Baab partook a small piece once, in defiance of his mother’s orders! Please note that this behaviour is strictly not recommended for a “First World” stomach, unless you are prepared for a Delhi belly.

4 Comments »

  1. Now this is a post that pulls me out of my lurking mode as I’ve been a fan of samosas too. But not to the extent of overlooking an extra spoonful of oil with it🙂 The kind of samosas I seek are the spicy ones, with a blackish filling but devoid of haldi, peas, raisins or nuts that big-time vendors have started injecting them with. And, of course nicely mashed potatoes and not carelessly bashed up ones. Also, I may not be brave enough to try those at railway stations. In India, as elsewhere I’m sure, it’s most sensible to settle for only those food joints that see their food finish rapidly – that way you can be certain about freshness of food–small vendors may have refrigerators or microwaves these days but they may not have electricity all through to run their appliances.

    You may enjoy a read of this piece by one of the most favourite food reviewers in India on the history of samosas: http://www.virsanghvi.com/vir-world-ArticleDetail.aspx?ID=356

    cheers, Jyoti

    Comment by Jyoti — November 4, 2009 @ 9:22 am | Reply

  2. Jyoti:

    Now I have two comments to respond to, so I had better start on this one at least.

    Looks like your taste in samosas complements mine (well, maybe not, because my taste in samosas is probably a superset of yours). Anyway, I love peas and groundnuts/peanuts in samosas too, if they are added. Haven’t had a chance to eat haldi/raisins to the best of my memory.

    But really, the ones at the stations – as long as they are hot – are pretty good, though sometimes they have a bit too much salt and/or spiciness. The ones I had on this trip were perfect but for the fact that they had a bit more oil than they should have; they also did not have all the addendums that you don’t like.

    You are right, of course, in your assessment that the quicker the food disappears, the fresher it is. But that is difficult to gauge for a non-resident.😦

    I will read the history of samosas now.🙂

    Comment by porcupyn — November 4, 2009 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  3. Some of the known clean chaat joints of Delhi-Gurgaon are Bikanerwala, Haldiram and the ones known only in Gurgaon being Shyam Sweets and Om Sweets. They all put raisins and 1 or 2 broken pieces of cashews in the filling–no peanuts…possibly to be able to charge extra for them. I can’t handle sweetness in my food so end up spending a fair amount of time examining these new breed of samosas for their raisins🙂 These days Bikanerwala has been doing Gobi samosas as well, and among the non-veggie snack choices elsewhere, we’re easily getting chicken samosas…altogether there is some innovation happening with samosas but I still crave the simple potato and chilli ones! When extra hungry, I like mine with a slice of brown bread with a few dots of tomato ketchup🙂

    Comment by Jyoti — November 6, 2009 @ 5:51 am | Reply

  4. Jyoti:

    I read the article by Vir, and I have a comment specifically on the following:

    “What’s more, it is now one of the most internationally renowned Indian snacks … All this should make Middle Easterners very angry.”

    I don’t understand why folks from the Middle East should be mad about India being acknowledged as the origin of samosas. I have hardly seen Middle Eastern cuisine with samosas – not that I have seen much of the Middle Eastern cuisine anyway (being vegetarian, I try to stick to known cuisine), though I know baklava for sure🙂.

    For desi foodie blog posts, check out Vijay’s and Anita’s – though a glance at her site, after along time, reveals a lot of adventure and much less food now – blogs.

    Now that you reminded me, I do remember having eaten those Haldiram’s hygenic samosas, hermetically sealed in those packs. Uggghh! I bought them once, never ever again. The insides were blacker than I wanted, potatoes were missing and yes, raisins, cardamom and god knows what else was in those samosas!! I don’t mind sweetness in my food, but I do understand what you mean – and yes, not in samosas for me either (I would draw the line at groundnuts and/or cashewnuts).

    Comment by porcupyn — November 6, 2009 @ 2:08 pm | Reply


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