Monthly Archives: February 2012

Singaras waiting to be fried

Singaras —Bengali Style Samosa

If you enjoy Indian food on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis, you have probably heard of the samosa.  The samosa is to India what the “Hot Pocket” is to America…only it has a million times more flavor. And no cheese.  And includes vegetables.  Okay, it’s nothing like a Hot Pocket.  It’s better!  Way better.

Typically samosas are made with a combination of potatoes, peas and spices.  This stellar combination makes a pretty dry curry that is then stuffed into a cone-shaped piece of pastry, and formed into triangles.  The triangles are then fried and enjoyed with different chutneys or ketchups.  Even people that “don’t like Indian food” like samosas!

In Kolkata (and the majority of West Bengal) samosas are called singaras.  They use different spices

Spices for Singara: cumin, tumeric, garam masala, pachpuran, amchoor, hing

and usually include cauliflower, fried peanuts, and sometimes even a little coconut.  They are so tasty that I would officially proclaim them to be the king of all samosas!  Unfortunately I can’t get them here, and had no idea how to make them.

While we were visiting I requested singaras most days, and either Baba would pick them up on his way home from the office or Piyush and I would take a little walk to one of the sweet shops and buy some kalakand and fresh fried singaras.  We’d enjoy them before dinner, as a snack, while drinking tea and watching “Big Boss” (India’s version of Big Brother).  After craving them for months, and hearing my father-in-law talk about them every time we call India (I think he’s teasing me!), I finally I decided it was time to demystify the singara and figure out how to make it at home.

Because singaras are typically bought roadside instead of made at home, learning to make them while I was in India didn’t really cross my mind.  They are so cheap—less than 6 cents (American) a piece, that people just don’t bother making them.

Singaras (back) and Samosas (front) as they are sold at a roadside stand. I couldn't find my photos, and this one is taken from Uncornered Market (click photo for direct link)

On our next trip, I am going to try and befriend a shopkeeper and see if they’ll teach me the trick to making the perfect singara.  Until that time comes, I’ll have to settle for my homemade version—which is pretty dang good, don’t get me wrong—it’s just not the same.

Singara and a Thums Up (can you tell I miss India?!)

My version of the Singara (a.k.a. the next best thing):

Dough:

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ajwain seeds
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • salt, to taste
  • water, enough to make a soft dough

Filling:

  • 1 large potato- peeled, cubed, and boiled
  • 1/2 cup (or so) of frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. cauliflower florets- cut very small
  • 2 tsp. ginger paste (or preferably fresh ginger)
  • 2 tbsp. peanuts- cut in pieces
  • 1 tbsp. coconut, diced fine
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. pachpuran (Bengali five-spice mix)
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. amchoor powder (dried mango powder)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. hing
  • 3 green chiles, or to your taste- diced finely
  • cilantro, to your taste
  • salt, to taste
  • oil, for frying

Directions:

  • Make the dough by mixing all the dry ingredients in a bowl and adding enough water to form a soft dough.  The dough should be a little sticky, but not too sticky.  It’s really hard to describe how a dough should be over the internet.  I think it’s something you need to have the feel of.  Once you’re happy with the texture of your dough,  cover it with a damp cloth and set it aside.
  • Start making the filling.  Add a little oil to a pan and fry the potatoes until they start browning.  Remove them from the pan and then add a little extra oil.  Fry the peanuts and the coconut.  Once they turn brown, remove them from the pan and drain them on a paper towel.
  • Using the same oil as you fried the peanuts and coconut in, cook the chile, ginger and spices for about a minute (or until everything becomes fragrant).  Add the peas and cauliflower.  Fry for about 3 minutes.  Then add the potatoes, cilantro, peanuts and coconut into the pan.  Cook this (adding a little water, if necessary) until the vegetables are tender.   Salt, to taste.  Set this aside and let it cool.
  • Separate the dough into 8 balls.  Roll out each ball, one at a time.  Once it is rolled out, cut it in half.

  • Brush the edges with a little water and form a cone with one of the halves, using your fingers.  Press the dough together lightly where it meets on the edges.  Fill the cone with the potato/cauliflower filling and then seal the singara by brushing a little water on one edge and pressing the whole thing together.

Singaras waiting to be fried

  • Fry the singaras in oil over medium heat until they are golden brown and delicious.
  • Serve with chutneys or ketchup…and wash it down with a warm cup of tea or a cold Thums Up

Indian version of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. I like it much better...it's less sweet.

P. S. Don’t use a plastic spoon in hot oil.

oops

P.P.S.  Thank you to Summer for teaching me how to deep fry.  I suck at frying.  Now, I suck a little less!  :-D

Ready to be steamed!

Vegetarian Momos! …and Remembering Darjeeling

While on our trip to India, Piyush and I met tons of incredible people, visited many spectacular places and tried many different foods (well…different to me!).  I didn’t really think too much about it while I was there, but now that I’m back home in the states…I can’t get Darjeeling out of my head!

Darjeeling is a beautiful town located in the foothills of the Himalayas, very close to both Nepal and Tibet.  It’s a major tourist destination, and like most everywhere in India…it’s crowded!

A street in Darjeeling

Tibetian Monks in Darjeeling

One of many Darjeeling Tea Estates

Darjeeling is also quite famous for the fabulous tea grown all along the hills…and for the momos!

I only ate momos twice while we were on our little holiday, but gosh, they were so good that I wish I would have had them every day!  Oh, the things I take for granted…

Have you ever heard of momos?  No?  Probably not.  I know I hadn’t before our trip.  I don’t know if there are many places in the states where you can find sub-par momos— let alone the authentic, delicious momos.  The closest you might get is a potsticker or dim sum, which although very similar, are not momos.

So what exactly is a momo?

It’s quite simple, really.  A momo is basically a dumpling made with a flour/water based dough.  They are native to Nepal and Tibet, and are very popular in the North-Eastern part of India.  Inside the dough is a mixture of veggies, meats (optional) and aromatics. They can be steamed, fried and even boiled in soups.  It’s amazing how something so basic can be so versatile, so tasty…and so addicting!  After doing a little searching online, I found a couple recipes that looked promising.  I took a few things from each recipe and came up with something that tasted almost exactly like I remembered.

In fact…they turned out so good, Piyush ate 8 of them in less than 10 minutes—and then he licked the plate!

The only piece of criticism he gave me was that I made my momos larger than I should have. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with making them large, the taste is the same; but they’re meant to be more “bite-sized” than “hockey-puck-sized.”

formed momo, before steaming

My recipe will make approximately 30 large momos—you could probably get 45 or 50 if you make them a little smaller.  Out of curiousity I plugged my final recipe into a calorie calculator, and guess what?!  Each large sized momo is around 85 calories!!!  Awesome!!!

The dough is easy to make.

  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
  • water —enough to make an even, stiff dough.

Pour the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.  Add 1 cup of water to begin.  Don’t use a spoon to mix, use your hands!  Knead the dough, adding flour and water as necessary.  I probably ended up using 3 1/5 c. flour and around 1 1/2 cups water—-but this will vary!

Cover the dough and let it rest for around 30 min. (I managed to wait 20.  Patience is not something I possess…)

While the dough rests, make the filling.

  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 cups cabbage– finely shredded (I bought it in a bag, pre-shredded.  I hate shredding cabbage!  Hate it!)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, smashed and minced
  • 1 giant potato (or 2 medium)—made into around a cup of mashed potato
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Kalaunji seeds (substitute cumin seeds, mustard seeds, or leave out all together)
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Mix the onion, cabbage, carrot, ginger, cilantro, salt and mashed potato in a bowl.  Stir it until everything is combined.  Heat the olive oil on the stove-top and pour the kalaunji seeds in and once they start to pop, dump all the oil/seeds in the veggie mixture.  Stir everything until mixed together, and set aside.
Next, take the dough and pinch off little balls—about 1 tbsp.  Roll the balls out into a some-what circular shape.

Roll the dough out (make them smaller if you're making bite-sized momos)

Pick the dough up in your left hand and plop a good heaping tablespoon of filling in the center.

Next, start crimping the edges and form the momo into  a circular shape.

crimp and pinch the dough around the filling

Ready to be steamed!

***Make sure you keep a damp towel over the momos and the dough as you’re forming them.  You don’t want the dough to dry out. ***

Once you get the momos all formed, you can either steam them right away or you can freeze them.  I froze all of mine because I wasn’t sure when Piyush would be home to eat them.  I placed them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, popped them in the freezer and let them stay there a couple hours.  Once they were fully frozen I put them into a giant ziplock bag, and back in the freezer.

When you’re ready to steam them:

Put water in a steamer pot and bring to a boil.  Place the steaming basket(s) in the pot.  If the water touches the basket, pour a little out.

Once the basket is in the pot, spray it with a little cooking oil (I used my misto)—you don’t want the momos to stick!  Work in batches, and place momos in the basket in a single layer so they don’t quite touch.

Set the timer for 15 minutes and don’t take the lid off the pot until it buzzes.  Resist the temptation.  Once the timer goes off, take them out of the steamer and serve with some soy dipping sauce, chile sauce, or tomato chutney!

Enjoy a little bit of Darjeeling, half a world away!

Have you ever visited some place that was so amazing, it left you wishing you could go back?  I have heard quite a few people who have been to Darjeeling say that they would love to retire there.  I can totally understand!

Enjoy a couple more photos!

Baba enjoying some Darjeeling tea