Monday, June 20, 2011

Samosa Week: India And Pak Make A Great Fried Pastry, But Can They Out-Appetize The World?

I don't think that samosas were my first Indian food, but they have certainly become a gateway drug for many people who explore the cuisines of the subcontinent.

And why not?  The appeal is international -- grab a handful of filling, wrap it in dough, drop it in hot oil to fry to a crisp.  Variations run from empanadas to sambusas to the knish.

But I think it's fair to start with the samosa.  You'd do fine at any of the Howard County Indian restaurants or even at the cashier at Food Cravings, but I'll start today with the vegetarian ones at Mango Grove / Mirchi Wok, the paired restaurants in Columbia off Dobbin Road.  (The Howard County planning board approved plans to knock down the building.  Anyone know what is happening to them?)

Two in a $5 order, they come out hot from the oil.  That's a key.  Samosas have a thick pastry shell that often bubbles and browns.  It's thicker than an egg roll, thinner than a calzone.  The best ones are fried and served fresh so that they don't soak in the grease and congeal.

The Mirchi Wok samosas are filled with diced potato and peas.  There is mild spice in the filling, but the excitement doesn't actually come from the samosas at all.  They're good with a touch of oil and the warm flavor of bread and potatoes.  The thrill comes from dipping your samosa into their two sauces -- a green thin sauce packed with herbs and a touch of hot pepper and a brown sauce with the consistency of ketchup and the slight sour taste of tamarind and cumin.

Those sauces are fresh and full of flavor.  They're the kind of melange that tastes delicious and shows the skill of a kitchen making something that I couldn't make at home.  I couldn't even identify all the flavors. I tried.  I drove all the way to a doctor's appointment dipping my finger after the samosas were gone.  (Sorry babe.  Doing it for the blog.  It's science.)  I think I tasted cumin in the brown sauce, probably cilantro and mint in the green.

Dive into samosas if you want to try Indian food.  Samosas to start, maybe a tandoori chicken and an eggplant dish like baighan bartha.  Those and a hot naan bread would be a great first meal.  Or read later in the week as we highlight other savory pastries from around the world.

This is the start of Samosa Week -- a celebration of savory pastries from India and beyond.  We're highlighting the best of Howard County's fried appetizers in all kinds of flavors.  Tomorrow's stop: Cross the border and shrink them down, but it's still called a samosa.

7 comments:

Marcia said...

Definitely mint in the green sauce from Akbar.

Anonymous said...

I love the samosas from Royal Taj. In fact Royal Taj has replaced House of India as our go to Indian restaurant.

Anonymous said...

I second that.

Morty Abzug said...

+1 to Akbar vegetable samosas. Much better than the mini triangular Afghani samosas from places like Maiwand and Mimi's. And I say this as a huge fan of Maiwand's bread and kebabs.

Eileen said...

this kind, when not too spicy with a great chutney are a big win in my book. I love the big chunks of potato, the pea, the spice and the crunch of the shell mingling with the sweet/spicy of the chutney. Now I'm craving indian food again...

Robin@ Good for the Palate said...

I have been meaning to try Mango Grove. Are they currently open for business? Are they good?

Lauren said...

"I love the samosas from Royal Taj. In fact Royal Taj has replaced House of India as our go to Indian restaurant."

I second this, although House of India still holds a special place for me with their papadams served with tamarind chutney