Pit Stop In D.C.: Samosa ban gaya American

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BY YASHWANT RAJ

Washington– Samosa, that typically Indian snack, just became American.

Trader Joe’s, a US-wide grocery chain, recently launched samosas stuffed with pumpkin, which become a national obsession around this time of the year, leading up to Halloween, which is celebrated with Jack-o’-Lanterns cut out of pumpkins.

Pumpkins are injected into or used in everything from coffee to ice cream to waffles, pies, and breakfast cereals. Many of these concoctions are specially launched around this time for just this season and disappear off the shelves in a few weeks.

The same fate awaits Trader Joe’s “Spicy Pumpkin Samosa”.

Some Indians and Indian-descent Americans, who are wary of excessive westernisation of Indian cuisine, have responded with predictable horror, “No, Trader Joe’s. Just No”, said one of them. Social media has been full of similar postings chiding Trader Joe’s for this culinary infraction.

Others were less hostile, and more welcoming. “Trader Joe’s spicy pumpkin samosa is a testament that it is accepted around the world as a global dish and no longer a regional or ethnic dish”, said Chintan Pandya, the chef-cofounder of Adda and Dhamaka, the buzziest New York Indian cuisine restaurants.

“It’s a big step forward for Samosa as a dish and will open more food gates for regional Indian dishes. Hope it works so we can have Turkey Tikka in the Trader Joe’s aisle.”

Turkey is a staple of a typically American holiday, Thanksgiving. The traditional dish is a whole Turkey, mostly brined but not marinated, that is roasted for hours in an oven; it’s then ceremonially cut up for serving at dinner with stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, potatoes and pumpkin pie.

If anyone at Trader Joe’s heard Pandya, it should ‘Turkey Tikka’. Chicken Tikka, of its British cousin Chicken Tikka Masala, is a growing favourite in the west.

Indian-descent Americans recall a time they could not find samosas anywhere in the country. Most of them learnt to make them at home, if ingredients were available, which was also rare at the time.

Indian families remember driving miles to a store with Indian cuisine groceries.

Ashok Bajaj, who came to the US 33 years ago and went on to establish himself as a leading restaurateur in Washington D.C., the power capital of the world, remembers there were no samosas available at the time. Now you can’t have enough of samosas served at his Indian cuisine restaurants — Bombay Club (just a block from the White House), Rasika and Bindas — and countless other Indian cuisine restaurants around the US.

Samosa is now widely available, and increasingly popular with non-Indian descent consumers.

Trader Joe’s did not respond to a request for of its reasons for putting pumpkin stuffed samosas on its shelves, but it is no stranger to other regular Indian cuisine — strictly Indian in form and content — such as Lamb Vindaloo, chickpeas and rice, chicken tikka, naans and rotis.

The pumpkin Samosa appears to be its first shot at Americanizing that most typical Indian snack.

“As long as its quality is good, it’s good,” said Bajaj.

Bajaj is no stranger to experimenting with Indian cuisine, his restaurants were probably the first to put guacamole into golgappas, which are now standard hors d’oeuvres at Indian-related events, as are bite-size pieces of nan that are sometimes served with drinks, mostly wine. (IANS)

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