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Samosas, kachoris and pakoras are delectably desi but one of them originally came from Central Asia

3/2/2017 3:46:55 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

Feeling low? What’s a better mood-lifter than a warm samosa, khasta kachori or a plate of delicately crunchy pakoras? The mere mention of these snacks will whet your appetite and make you run to the nearest stall selling these deep-fried goodies. No calorie counting permitted now!

Samosas, kachoris and pakoras have become synonymous with the cuisine of North India, and each of them has a unique history. The samosa, which originally came from Central Asia, was actually a meat dish, while keema is said to be borrowed from the Greek κιμάς, which means minced meat. 

The gastronomic literature of 10th century Middle Eastern cuisine, especially early medieval Persian texts have many mentions of the sanbosag, an early relative of the samosa and an etymological cousin of the Persian pyramidal pastry, samsa. Travelling merchants carried the stuffed pastry from Central Asia to North Africa, East Asia and South Asia.

The Delhi Sultanate, the Khiljis of Delhi and Lahore, started putting minced beef in Turkish deep-fried bread. But this did not suit their digestive system and hence it was replaced by lamb. Hindus came up with a vegetarian version in the early 16th century.

Sufi scholar, musician and famed poet Amir Khusrau too wrote of the samosa being enjoyed by nobles in the royal Indian courts in the year 1300. He famously framed the riddle: 

“Samosa kyun na khaya? Joota kyun na pehna?

Talaa na tha.” [Why wasn’t the samosa eaten? Why wasn’t the shoe worn? The samosa wasn’t fried (talaa), the shoe didn’t have a sole (also called talaa.)]

The samosa seems to have been further Indianised by the Marwaris of Rajasthan to create kachori. But its history is somewhat unclear. Some food writers believe that the samosa became a kachori when it changed shape. Since ancient trade routes passed Marwar, they were exposed to various produce. But unlike the samosa, kachoris were stuffed with dals and dry spices. Other food historians suggest that the kachori is a version of masala puri while others quoting Persian and Turkish texts say that it may have come from Jhelum because the Hindu pandits of the Valley used to have a preparation made of maida, ground pulses and condiments with a dash of tamarind. Tunisia too has a vegetarian flat pie that resembles the kachori, some said.

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