Central Asian cuisines are perhaps one of the world’s most underrated. The region mainly consists of landlocked countries that don’t attract a lot of people and outside of the Soviet block not a lot of people are familiar with local cuisines. If you read some of our previous posts, you know that our blog is trying to change that. We previously wrote about Uzbek food and in this post, we’ll share the traditional samsa recipe; one of the most popular snacks in Central Asia. But let’s start from the beginning…
What Is Samsa?
Samsa is a crunchy pastry with a triangular shape stuffed with minced lamb (or beef, chicken, or more rarely, pork) onions, and fragrant spices, baked to perfection. As you’ll see below, there are many different variations of this pastry around the world but in this post, we’ll focus on the traditional Central Asian samsa recipe. This pastry is the perfect mix of crunchy (on the outside) and juicy (on the inside), creating a wonderful contrast that makes up for an amazing gastronomic experience.
The Central Asian region is located in the middle of the Silk Road and historically, was a place where a lot of merchants and traders passed by. And since people didn’t have motorized vehicles and jetplanes back then, they needed a snack that they could take with them on a long journey that can be eaten both, hot and cold, and be equally tasty. This is where samsa enters the story. It’s a great, nutritious, and filling snack that can endure the hot weather and can be just as delicious even after a few days of its preparation.
Obviously, today, things are very different but samsa is still one of the most delicious snacks in the region and an important part of local culture. But as we mentioned above, this isn’t the only region where this delicious snack is popular. This brings us to our next point…
A lot of Medieval traders traveled across the Silk Road and many of them tried to bring back or replicate some of the things they found during their journeys. That’s probably one of the reasons why there are a lot of delicious snacks around the world that are very similar to samsa.
The most famous version of this snack is probably the Indian samosa. The main difference between the two is that the Indian version is usually filled with potatoes and hot peppers instead of meat, it has slightly thinner layers, and is deep-fried instead of baked. Samosa is also popular in other South Asian countries, as well as Southeast Asia.
A similar version is also popular in Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon is known as samboussek. It’s prepared with chard, tomato sauce, and either cheese or meat.
On the Arabian Peninsula, the local version of samsa is fatayer and is usually stuffed with spinach and cheese or minced meat.
There’s also briouat or birwate; the Moroccan version of samsa prepared with minced meat, cheese, and lime juice.
And last but not least, there’s also the Madagascar version known as sambo. This one is usually filled with cheese but you can also find some variation filled with shark meat and pineapple.
To prepare a delicious Uzbek samsa, you have to make two things; knead and spread the dough and prepare the filling. I know you might find recipes that include kneading intimidating but making samsa is quite easy.
If you don’t like the idea of cumin and coriander seasonings, you can always experiment with other spices. This won’t be the traditional samsa, but hey, who cares as long as you like it. People experiment with samsa all the time. For example, one of the most recent trends is using hazelnuts and pistachios in the filling, especially when the main ingredient of the filling is potato. You won’t find it on the street but you will find it in some fancy restaurants.
Samsas are usually served warm but they’re equally tasty even after a couple of days. Traditionally, samsas can be eaten as a snack alongside a cup of tea or they can also make a light lunch when combined with a side salad or other side dish.
A Few More Things You Might Need For This Recipe
For The Dough
- 2 Cups Flour
- 1/3 Cup Ghee (melted)
- 1 Cup Water
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
For The Filling
- 1 lb Minced Lamb (Or Chicken/Mutton)
- 1 Garlic (Minced)
- 2 Medium-sized Onions (Chopped)
- 1 Tablespoon Grated Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Corriander
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds
1. Add the flour to a mixing bowl.
2. Add the salt to the water and mix it until the salt dissolves.
3. Pour the water into the bowl and start kneading.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest for 20 minutes.
5. Combine the ingredients for the filling and leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Add a little bit of flour to the surface and start to roll the dough.
7. Roll the dough into a thin rectangular.
8. Melt the ghee and place it on the baking sheet.
9. Starting from the edges, start rolling the rectangular dough like a cigar.
10. Once done, cut the dough into equal triangular pieces. In our recipe, we have 20 pieces but you can use as many as you want to.
11. Go back to the triangular dough pieces and roll them into circles.
12. Add one tablespoon of filling in the circle.
13. Drag the two opposite sides of the dough and form a triangular.
14. Pinch two corners of the triangular and merge them together.
15. Add some parchment paper to your baking sheet and preheat your oven to 385 F° (200C°)
16. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.
17. Add the samsa pastries on your baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes without changing the temperature. In the end, the pastries should have a golden color.
18. Serve it with some tea, a salad or a side dish, and
Serving Size:1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 226mgCarbohydrates: 12gNet Carbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1.5gSugar: 0.9gProtein: 10.5g
Did you ever try samsa? Did you like our Uzbek samsa recipe? If you tried our recipe, don’t forget to leave us a rating and feel free to ask questions in the comments!
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