Irani Chai Samosas

Irani Samosas in Irani cafe in Hyderabad.
By Parsee Panu

All of you are familiar with Samosa. Probably the most famous Indian snack! If you have never tried making them at home, try THIS recipe. What all of you may not be familiar with is the version that I’m going to post today, a very unique Hyderabadi recipe. These samosas are typically found in Irani cafés, which are a very popular around the city. You will find an Irani café, wherever you go!! These cafés are mainly places that serve the most famous Irani Chai and snacks, including these samosas and Osmania biscuits! They are almost a tradition in Hyderabad. Venkat & I absolutely love the Irani chai and never miss on having at least a cup everyday while we are there. You might wonder what could be so special about a chai. But there is something about the way these cafe’s make them, that is impossible to recreate at home. The main reason is the milk. A huge vessel of milk is kept constantly boiling on the stove. The stove is never turned off during the day. The milk thus boils over and over, and attains this beautiful pink hue, that gives the tea its wonderful taste! There are also some very typical jargon you need to know while ordering. First comes the portion size, if you just want to have a few sips, you order for a single (pronounced as sin-gul) and you get your tea in tiny tea glasses. A regular chai comes in a cup and saucer, usually the tea is overflowing from the cup and is spilled onto the saucer. Don’t worry, that’s the way it is served! Next, for those of you who don’t like their tea very strong, like Venkat, you ask for a golden. And people like me who like their tea nice and strong, ask for a regular chai! So next time you are in Hyderabad, do visit an Irani café and at least try a golden single!! And don’t forget to order the Irani samosa and dil pasand (a coconut pastry).

You can also see street hawkers carry around dozens of these, neatly arranged mini samosas, in huge baskets. They look and smell delicious. We do tend to think twice before buying them because of all the unhygienic handling, but finally give in to the temptation. These samosas are absolutely IRRESISTIBLE. They pack an awesome crunch and flavor! And you have to eat at least 4 or 5 to satisfy your senses. One is just not enough! The recipe is slightly complicated, just needs a bit of your time. But once you have everything ready, and you get a hang of the folding technique, its a breeze to make them.

The filling for these samosas is usually an onion curry. Some people do use a combination of cabbage and onions. I have used a combination of onions and bread crumbs. I just thought the bread crumbs would contribute to the taste and will help keep the samosas crispy, because the breadcrumbs absorb the moisture from the onions. Some people also use raw onions as the filling (that’s the way street hawkers make theirs). But that can turn out to be a little tricky and messy, so I like to play safe and use cooked onions.

For about 20 samosas

For the samosa shells:

Whole wheat flour (atta) – 1/2 cup
All purpose flour (maida) – 1/2 cup
Rice flour/Corn starch – 2 Tbsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp plus 1 tsp
Water – about 1/3 cup

For the filling:

Oil – 1 Tbsp
Onions (chopped) – 3 cups (from 2 large onions)
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 Tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp (optional)
Red chilli powder – 1-2 tsp (adjust to taste)
Kasuri Methi – 2 tsp
Coriander/Cilantro leaves – 1/4 cup (chopped)
Amchur (dry mango powder) – 1 tsp OR Lime juice – 2 tsp (optional)
Salt – to taste
Dry Bread Crumbs – 1/2 cup

To make the samosas:

All purpose flour – 2 Tbsp
Water – 1 Tbsp
Oil – for deep frying


For the shells:

Combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt and 2 tsp oil in a mixing bowl. Add water gradually and make a soft dough (like chapatti dough). Coat the dough in 1 tsp of oil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a griddle/tava on medium heat.
Generously flour your working board. Make small lemon sized balls of the dough and roll them out as thin as you can, without tearing. I like to roll out my dough into a rectangle instead of a circle. Then if required, cut this rectangle into two halves to fit your griddle’s surface. Generously flour each half and stack them together. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.
Place each half on the griddle/tava and cook for 20 seconds on each side. You are barely cooking the rotis, to give them strenght and flexibility. Take care not to actually cook the rotis. They should look something like in the photo below. Remove the cooked halves and stack them on a paper towel. Cover with a moist kitchen towel until you are ready to use them.

Once all the rotis are done, cut them into rectangular strips (about 6 in by 3 in) as shown in the photo above. Do not worry they don’t have to be perfect rectangles. You can also work with the corner strips, as long as they are 6 in long and at least one side is 3 inch long. Cover these strips with a moist towel until you are ready to use.
Tip: You can also freeze these strips at this point for up to 2 months. Generously sprinkle flour between the strips and pack them up in aluminum foil. Place the foil packet in a ziploc and freeze. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
To make the filling:

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and turmeric powder saute for 30 seconds. Add in the onions and salt and cook for about 5-6 minutes.
Then add the red chilli powder, amchur powder/lime juice and coriander powder. Cook until the onions are tender and there is almost no moisture in the pan.
Finish with crushed kasuri methi and chopped cilantro. Let the filling cool to room temperature before using.
To make the samosa:

Mix the 2 Tbsp of all purpose flour and 1 Tbsp water in a small bowl to make a glue.
Take one strip and apply this glue on one side (along the length). Then carefully fold the strip into a cone, with the vertex sealed. Then fill in a spoonful of the onion filling. Then apply some glue on the open end, and fold over to seal and thus form a perfect triangle.
Make the samosas and keep aside. Heat oil for deep frying, don’t let the oil get very hot.
Deep fry the samosas on medium heat until deep golden brown. These samosas are darker in color than the regular samosas.
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