ISLAMABAD: For Pakistanis, no iftar table, or in fact the holy month of Ramadan, is complete without samosas.
Though the savory, triangular pastry is eaten year-round as the perfect tea-time snack in Pakistan, samosas may just taste most delicious at iftar. After a long day of fasting, they’re just the crunchy, spicy nibble you need.
Most people keep a frozen stash at home, made from scratch or store bought, to fry up as a quick snack at iftar. In Ramadan, traditional samosa vendors have to hire more employees and new seasonal stalls emerge to meet rising demand. And if the sun sets while you are late on your way to an iftar party, you can always be sure that a roadside samosa shop will be there like a prayer answered.
The deep-fried pastry, which usually doesn’t cost more than ten cents a piece, is made with fillings of vegetables like potatoes, onions and peas, or meats like beef and chicken mince or, in its more modern varieties, with cheese, tofu or even Nutella for a sweet twist. It is served hot, often with fresh green mint, coriander, or tamarind chutney.
Although the snack has a rich historical background in the Indian subcontinent – it was introduced to this region in the 13th or 14th centuries by chefs from the Middle East and Central Asia who cooked in the royal kitchens for the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate – the popularity of samosas surges during the month of Ramadan.
“Samosa is a very important part of Ramadan in Pakistan and it holds a sentimental value when we break the fast during Ramadan,” Raja Feroz Khan Janjua, a customer at the famous Siddique Samosa shop in Islamabad’s upscale Rana Market, told Arab News.
“It is part of our culture, tradition, that is why, it is very important that when we open our fast on the table we see samosas.”
Another customer, Muhammad Asif Kakar, said no iftar was complete without samosas:
“Samosa is considered an essential part of iftar. After a long day of fasting, the taste of a samosa is so good it just touches the heart.”
Imran Farooq, a worker at the Bengali Samosa stall, perhaps Islamabad’s most popular place to buy the snack, told Arab News the establishment offered a diverse range of samosas, including vegetarian and meat-based options.
“We offer five types of samosas, including mixed vegetable, chicken, beef, and potato, as well as kachori and pakoras,” he told Arab News, referring to two other types of deep-fried snacks popular in Ramadan.
With a long-standing history and loyal customer base, Bengali Samosa sees a significant increase in demand during Ramadan, prompting the food stall to hire more workers.
“During Ramadan, there is a significant increase in public demand, so we adjust [our] number of workers accordingly,” Farooq said.
However, with inflation at a multi-decade high in Pakistan this year, even samosas have suffered.
“The sale of our samosas and pakoras is going well, but due to the current situation [inflation], sales are a bit slower than previous years,” Asghar Ali, owner of the Siddique Samosa shop, said.
“Sales are closer to what they are in our daily routine [non-Ramadan times].”