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.

Yesterday, when it was snowing and we were all house bound, and I was craving some shingara with my afternoon tea, I told myself to get my rear end off the couch and just make some! That way I could shirk the whole snow shoveling part too. The girls were pretty excited about the shingara making. It is not often that their lazy mother gets off the couch to make such stuff after all.

I wanted to make the aloo-phulkopir shingara, but since I didn't have cauliflower at home, I had to call up my Mother and ask for an alternative. She suggested a potato-green peas filling with some fried peanuts and spiced with bhaja moshla. She also said to temper the oil with kalonji and ajwain(kalo jeera ar jowan) and that indeed was the best idea. Little Sis helped with peeling the potatoes and posing for the photos. Big Sis claimed, these were the best samosas she had ever had.

All in all, the shingaras turned out to be great. Yeah, they didn't stand as they should but who cares ? Also according to the husband man, I should have fried them slowly at medium heat, for a longer time, to get the smooth outer texture instead of the bubbles that you see on my shingara. Point noted for next time

Bengali Shingara 

Make the Dough

In a wide mouthed bowl take 1 Cup of AP Flour/Maida + 1/4th Cup of Whole wheat flour

Add 1/4th tsp of salt + 2 tbsp Oil or Ghee. Rub the oil into the flour with the tip of your fingers to get a crumbly texture

Now slowly add warm water to make the dough. The dough should be smooth and almost like the dough for puri but bit more stiff.

Wrap the dough with a cling wrap or damp cloth and keep aside for 15-20 minutes

Make the Potato-Peas filling

Take 3 large Potatoes

Peel the potatoes or like me, get your 8 year old to peel them. Once they are peeled chop them in small cubes. I wish I had take photos of the chopped potatoes. You can follow this to get an idea.

Defrost and cook 1/2 cup of frozen peas in the microwave

Fry a handful of peanuts until they are brown or use a handful of roasted peanuts. Place the roasted or fried peanuts between the folds of a kitchen paper towel and crush roughly with a mortar.

Heat 2-3 tbsp Vegetable oil in a frying pan

Temper the oil with 1/4th tsp of Kalonji and 1/4th tsp f Ajwain.

When the spices sizzle add 1tsp of grated ginger and 2 green chilies chopped fine

Add the cubed potatoes and toss them in the oil.

Add 1/2 tsp of Red Chili powder, a pinch of turmeric powder, salt to taste and saute the potatoes. Add 1/3rd cup water. Cover with a lid and let the potatoes cook.

When the potatoes are almost done, add the sweet peas and the peanuts. Toss them together and let them cook

Add 1/2 tsp of Bhaja Mashla and mix well. The water should have dried by now and the pottaoes cooked nicely

Now to fashion the shingara

Pinch out a ball from the dough and flatten it out between your palm. The ball should be larger than the ones for puri. You will soon see why!

Dip the flat disc in oil and roll it out in a circular shape. The circle should be about 4-5" in diameter.

Cut the circle in half to form two semicricles

Now fold the semicircular piece of dough to make a conical structure. Remember how you make a cone with paper ? This is just like that but needs little patience.Even mine weren't perfect. Gently hold it between the crook of your thumb and forefinger.

Pinch the narrow tip of the cone to close it. Fill it with the potato filling. Do not overstuff. With your fingers, close the wider open end of the cone by pinching the dough together.

Fry the shingara

Heat Vegetable oil in a kadhai.

When the oil is hot, gently put the shingaras in the hot oil and fry at medium heat.

When the shingaras are golden brown, take them out and serve. Enjoy!

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  1. Hi Sandeepa di,
    Tumi jodi singara gulo ekdam thanda tele chere low heat e fry koro ar dough te moyan beshi dao tahole ekdam dokaner moto finishing ashe. Smooth texture ashe. I have tried it. Try kore dekhte paro. No need to publish my comment. I thought of sharing you the tip only. Ami to singarar stuffing ta te first e ekta motorshuti di so that khub sharp cone tairi hoy. 😊

    1. Thank you. Thank you. Moyan er proportion ta ektu dao. I will try again!

    2. Dear Sandeepa di,

      Ami 1 cup maida te 2 tbl sp sunflower oil di. Khub kom jal diye makhi.
      Ar beli moida diye, tel diye na. Thanda tel e chere aste aste heat increase kori. Khub tel kintu taane na.
      Ete khub crispy hoy, dokaner moto. Try kore dekhte paro. 😊

    3. Thank you. Moyan ta tahole amar thik i chilo, kintu bhaja ta tumi jemon bolle sei rokom korte hobe next time!

    4. For moyan, there should be enough oil in the flour to be able to make a laddu that stays (my nimki offer suffers because I feel that's a bit too much), and dough should be stiff.

  2. Dear Sandeepa di
    I am a huge fan of yours from Kolkata. Have tried your recipe today. My father aged 82 who yearns for the good ol' bengali singara - quite rare to find today - felt like it was a silver lining to his day. I told him about you - he asked me to convey his blessings to you. Thank you for sharing and the beautiful stories that come along.


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