How to make samosas and the cultural significance inside the South Asian snacks

Zohreen Shah and her mom demonstrate their family's recipe.

Video byNidhi Singh
May 30, 2023, 4:28 AM

Samosas, filled and fried appetizers that are perfectly golden brown, puffy and purse-like, are a savory staple across South Asian cuisine.

For ABC News reporter Zohreen Shah, cooking up her family's beloved Pakistani-style samosas is like hopping into a culinary time machine.

"They're packed with my mom's family history, but also just history in general," Shah said alongside her mom Sameena Adamjee as they prepared a batch of their family's favorite dish. "When we eat one of these, they're packed with a punch and so much culture."

VIDEO:  Zohreen Shah makes samosas with mom, talks legacy of recipes
VIDEO: Zohreen Shah makes samosas with mom, talks legacy of recipes

Adamjee, who grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, told "GMA" that "every Pakistani, South Asian, Indian dinner has fried stuff as appetizers," and for her family, they were "used as something that you'd make when friends and family come over for a cup of tea, [which] is big in our culture."

Adamjee's chili, coriander, cumin and turmeric-spiced samosas are made with three different filling variations: dal, which are stewed lentils; aloo, which are potatoes; and keema, which is ground meat.

"The actual samosa wrappers are difficult to fold -- so I do cheat on these and use egg roll wrappers so it's easy to maneuver," Adamjee said.

"You should give yourself more credit," Shah encouraged her mom. "We're using a slightly different wrapper, but it symbolizes where we are as well."

Adamjee added, "In a way it's a melting pot because we're merging different cultures."

Shah explained that every culture has something that's like a samosa with slight differences based on their specific ingredients or way of making them.

PHOTO: A childhood photo of Zohreen Shah and her mom Sameena Adamjee.
A childhood photo of Zohreen Shah and her mom Sameena Adamjee.
Zohreen Shah

"The have something that's like a samosa in Spain, in Brazil, in Israel, in all the Arab countries, but it's actually called something different there," she said. "And the filling is different or the wrapper or outside layer is different. And that's the reason why the samosa is so special, because every culture sort of has their version. But the differences is what makes it makes it so special."

When Adamjee cooked samosas while Shah was growing up, she said, "I would make dozens of them and just freeze them individually, so when you take them out and fry them, it was pretty quick."

Added Shah, "The thing that I now realize is how kind of unashamed we were about taking our own culture's food to school. It didn't matter to me. There were a lot of things that I would kind of hide ... but the food, you can't pass that up ... we had your home cooking every day at school."

Check out their full recipe below.

Homemade Samosa Recipe

PHOTO: Sameena Adamjee fills her homemade samosas inside a wonton wrapper.
Sameena Adamjee fills her homemade samosas inside a wonton wrapper.
ABC News

1 packet of egg roll wrappers (large square wrappers)
1 pound keema, aka ground meat
2 serrano peppers, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 onion (medium size), finely chopped (squeeze out water)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped coarsely
Oil for deep frying the samosa


Cook the keema with 1 tablespoon chopped serrano pepper, garlic, ginger and salt

Once keema is fully cooked, stir over high flame till the water evaporates. Keema should be very dry.

Cool the keema.

Add the onion, cilantro and 1 tablespoon serrano pepper (may use less) to the completely cooled keema. Mix well.

Cut the egg roll wrappers in thirds. Place unused wrappers flat in a sealed plastic bag.

Fill the wrappers with the keema mixture using a teaspoon. Apply water to seal the wrappers. Be sure to seal it well, pinching the corners if needed.

Place samosas on a flat plate till ready to fry (fry soon after wrapping to avoid the wrappers cracking).

Heat oil in 10 to 12-inch wok (fill wok a little more than half).

Heat on medium high and lower slightly.

Gently place 1 samosa at a time in the oil. Samosas take several minutes to get golden brown. Fry no more than 8-10 minutes at a time for even frying.

Once fried, remove samosas with a slotted spoon and let access oil drain on paper towels.

Serve with cilantro chutney and / or lemon slices (cilantro chutney is available at most south Asian grocery stores).

Editor's note: This was originally published on May 26, 2023.