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Arts & Culture

What's Supposed To Be In A Samosa?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

During President Trump's recent visit to India, a popular snack became the subject of some unexpected controversy.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Right. This snack would be the samosa; a crispy, fried pastry traditionally filled with peas and potatoes.

CHANG: A version of the snack was served during Trump's visit to the former residence of Mahatma Gandhi. Instead of peas and potatoes, the filling was made up of broccoli and corn.

KELLY: Samosa puritans were outraged, and they expressed their distaste in a storm of tweets. But rather than jump into the fray, we thought it might be a good time to investigate the triangular snack's identity.

NIK SHARMA: I think the main thing with the samosa is there are two parts, right?

CHANG: That's award-winning food writer Nik Sharma.

SHARMA: The first is the texture, so you want that nice pastry that's - you know, it's flaky. It breaks and causes that crunch when you bite into it.

CHANG: The second is the filling. And that's where, in this case, things may have gone awry.

SHARMA: My concern is that with broccoli, it's something that releases so much water on cooking, if you put broccoli inside a samosa and then you cook it, it just feels like it's going to have a (unintelligible) mushy texture.

KELLY: For Sharma, though, it goes beyond cooking fundamentals. It's also about the culinary roots of an entire country.

SHARMA: Broccoli, as far as I know, is not a native vegetable to India. So if it were me, I would want to showcase the vegetables from India.

CHANG: Group Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam of Rasika in Washington, D.C., says that he respects the chef's willingness to experiment, but he would have gone with something a little more classic.

VIKRAM SUNDERAM: Since it was his first visit to India, I mean, I would have definitely tried and served him the traditional samosa, which is with potatoes and green peas.

KELLY: Chef Sunderam also says no chef worth his salt would criticize food without trying it first.

SUNDERAM: Now that it's come into the limelight, I may try it out (laughter). The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.