How to make samosas and the cultural significance of South Asian snacks

Samosas, perfectly browned, puffy, purse-like stuffed and fried appetizers, are a staple of South Asian cuisine.

For ABC News correspondent Zohreen Shah, cooking her family’s beloved Pakistani-style samosas is like jumping into a culinary time machine.

“They’re full of the history of my mother’s family, but also history in general,” Shah said alongside her mother Sameena Adamjee as they whipped up a batch of their family’s favorite dish. “When we eat one, they’re full of punch and so much culture.”

VIDEO: Zohreen Shah cooks samosas with her mother and talks about the legacy of the recipes

Adamjee, who grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, told ‘GMA’ that “every Pakistani, South Asian and Indian dinner has fried foods as appetizers”, and for his family they were “used as something what you would do when your friends and family come over for a cup of tea, (which) is important in our culture.”

Adamjee’s chilli, coriander, cumin and turmeric samosas are made with three different filling variations: dal, which is a lentil stew; aloo, which are potatoes; and keema, which is minced meat.

“Real samosa wrappers are hard to fold – so I cheat with these and use egg roll wrappers so they’re easy to maneuver,” Adamjee said.

“You should give yourself more credit,” Shah encouraged his mother. “We use slightly different packaging, but it also symbolizes where we are.”

Adamjee added, “In a way, it’s a melting pot because we’re merging different cultures.”

Shah explained that each culture has something resembling a samosa with slight differences based on their specific ingredients or how they make it.

PHOTO: A childhood photo of Zohreen Shah and her mother Sameena Adamjee.

A childhood photo of Zohreen Shah and her mother Sameena Adamjee.

Zohreen Shah

“They have something that looks like a samosa in Spain, in Brazil, in Israel, in all Arab countries, but it’s actually called something different there,” she said. “And the filling is different or the wrapper or the outer layer is different. And that’s why the samosa is so special, because every culture has its version. But the differences are what makes it so special. “

When Adamjee cooked samosas while Shah was growing up, she said, “I would make dozens and freeze them individually, so when you take them out and fry them, it was pretty quick.”

Shah added: “What I realize now is how unashamed we were to bring food from our own culture to school. It didn’t matter to me. There had a lot of things that I would sort of hide…but the food, you can’t pass that up…we used to cook your house every day at school.”

Check out their full recipe below.

Homemade samosa recipe

PHOTO: Sameena Adamjee stuffs her homemade samosas into a wonton wrapper.

Sameena Adamjee stuffs her homemade samosas into a wonton wrapper.

ABC News

1 package spring roll wrappers (large square wrappers)
1 pound keema, aka ground meat
2 serrano chiles, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 onion (medium size), finely chopped (squeeze out the water)
1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
Oil for frying samosa


Cook the keema with 1 tbsp chopped serrano pepper, garlic, ginger and salt

Once the keema is fully cooked, stir over high heat until the water evaporates. Keema must be very dry.

Cool the keema.

Add the onion, cilantro and 1 tbsp serrano pepper (maybe less) to the completely cooled keema. Mix well.

Cut the egg roll sheets into thirds. Lay unused wrappers flat in a sealed plastic bag.

Fill the wrappers with the keema mixture using a teaspoon. Apply water to seal packages. Be sure to seal it well, pinching the corners if necessary.

Place samosas on a flat plate until ready to fry (fry soon after wrapping to prevent wrappers from cracking).

Heat the oil in a 10 to 12 inch wok (fill the wok a little more than half full).

Heat over medium high heat and lower slightly.

Carefully drop 1 samosa at a time into the oil. The samosas take several minutes to turn golden. Fry no more than 8-10 minutes at a time for even frying.

Once fried, remove the samosas with a slotted spoon and allow the oil to drain on paper towels.

Serve with cilantro chutney and/or lemon slices (cilantro chutney is available at most South Asian grocery stores).

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