Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bengali Shingara -- not a samosa

There are samosas,the unique conical shaped Indian pies(in lack of a better word) made with pastry dough and stuffed with spiced potatoes, peas or mince meat and fried in hot oil, and then there are shingaras, the Bengali version of the same. Now don't you go and offend a Bengali, by saying that a shingara is same as samosa but only smaller. Never say that!

Bengalis are very possessive about their shingara, a popular snack served with steaming cups of tea, be it Darjeeling tea served in fancy china or sweetened bha(n)rer cha served in earthenware cups. While many upscale Bengali mashimas will look down upon aloor chop or telebhaja from the street, they will not blink a eye when offered these small triangle shaped delights from the neighborhood Kalika Mishtanno Bhandar, stuffed with potatoes-cauliflowers-sweet pea(the aloo phulkopir shingara being the favorite) in winter or potatoes and peanuts at other times of the year.

Growing up in Bihar, I was more familiar with the larger samosas from the stores, which I of course loved. The Bangali Shingara was something that was home made. Come winter, my Mother would be up in arms, steaming potatoes and cauliflowers, making conical structures from dough, like magic and frying up hot, hot shingaras. They were delicious and you could have as many of them. They were home made after all.

Potato-peas filling for shingara

Later, when we moved to this small town in Bengal, the shingara war was won by the local sweet-maker, Shotu, who fried batches of perfect shingara and made heavenly cream-chops in his shack like store known famously as "Shotu'r Dokan"!

Shotu'r shingara showed up at snack time, in our house, almost two or three times a week. Every afternoon around 5 in the evening,a huge black kadhai filled with oil would be put on the coal stove, at his store; mounds and mounds of alabaster white dough made of maida would be rolled into circular discs on glistening wooden boards; they were then stuffed and sealed in the blink of an eye; and suspended in the hot oil where they would be fried to flaky golden brown perfection.

My mother still made shingaras on some Sundays. Unlike me, she is one who fries stuff just because she wants to and not needs to. I mean, if I got perfect shingaras hot off the oil from a store, 2 miles away, I would have never made them at home.

Heck, I don't make them even when I don't get it at any store in my driving radius. We make do with samosas from the Indian stores, but I don't really like their stuffing. We love the Chicken samosas from Trader Joe's but there covering leaves a lot to desire. Sometimes for parties, we get the frozen samosas from the Indian stores, Swad or some such brand. They are ok. But honestly, none of them is a shingara.
There is my favorite Bengali caterer who does make great shingaras, with fried peanuts et al but he makes them only when there is a large order and that does not happen very often.