Let’s talk about one of the most favorite snacks of India. The humble samosa. To the uninitiated, samosa is a stuffed pastry with savory filling inside, usually consisting of spiced potatoes, onions, peas, and coriander. I used to think that the samosa is indigenous to India, however, I was surprised to find out that it originated in Central Asia and was introduced to India only in the 13th or 14th century by Arab traders. However, the popularity of the snack today in India is phenomenal. Every region, every state, in India loves its samosa and has its own version of the ubiquitous snack. In this post, I’m going to talk about the kind of samosas made in the eastern region of India in general and Jamshedpur in particular.
First things first, the samosa is not called samosa in Jamshedpur at all! Owing to the huge Bengali influence on the city, it is referred to, by its Bengali name, ‘Singara’. My mouth waters as I write this word, and my vision is filled with the triangular pastry shell filled with amazing mashed, spiced potatoes inside. It is usually served with an accompaniment, usually some kind of chutney, however, I like it even if it is not accompanied by anything.
Now, let us talk about a few singara joints of Jamshedpur, which dish out the most amazing samosas I’ve ever put in my mouth. At the top of the heap is Suresh chaatwala of Kharangajhar. His samosas are served piping hot, largely because, they are sold the moment they come out of the frying pan. In fact I’ve spent quite a few idle hours, by his stall, waiting, as I saw batches after batches of samosas being claimed by people who were there earlier, people who had waited longer than me. It looks and smells so delicious, that you cannot stop yourself from putting the piping hot samosa right into your mouth. I’ve burnt my tongue on a number of occasions, but the taste of the samosas more than compensates for the burnt mouth. Those of you who have eaten those samosas will understand. Those of you who have not, take the next train to Jamshedpur, and have them. You will understand.
Next, on the list is a stall in New Market, Telco Colony. This was right outside the gate of Gulmohur School, where, I studied. Quite a few afternoons were gainfully employed snacking on these samosas. The unique thing about this stall was that, the samosas were served with ‘aloo subzi’ (kind of a semi-gravy potato curry). This subzi was so delicious, it took the samosa to a whole new level. I remember, once our entire class was punished outside in the assembly area. The teachers had thought that the burning sun overhead will break our will and we will grovel in front of them, to let us go to the classroom by afternoon. However, we had other ideas. We pooled some money, and called out to the guy in the samosa stall to get us some 80 samosas. Each student had two of those lovely, fresh triangles and played happily in the assembly area, till the teachers discovered what we were up to, and found some other method to punish us. Today, when I look back at this incident, I laugh at our stupidity, but I still savor the taste of those lovely samosas, which tasted even better in the hot sun.
The third on the list is Bombay Restaurant in New Market. It was called Bombay Restaurant then, I don’t know what is called now. I have heard, the restaurant has changed hands a couple of times after we passed out of school. Here the samosas were served with chutney, either tomato or lentil and both tasted really good. In fact a classmate of mine, used to drink a couple of bowls of chutney before digging in to the samosa. The chutney was, to quote R K Narayan, ‘gratis’ you see.
Well, I can go on and on about more samosa stalls in the city, however, I will run out of words, before Jamshedpur runs out of its samosa stalls. So, I’ll stop here. The next time you visit Jamshedpur, do not forget to put the samosa, well, I’ll say singara, in your mouth. Take my word for it, you’ll love it.