July 04, 2008


If the Bo-Kaap is the historical home of the samoosa and the Cape Malay population, then the Cape Flats nurtures its modern descendents of both the human and pastry varieties. Aptly named, the Flats are a windswept plain that is home to over a million Coloured and Black Capetonians, forced there under Apartheid’s Group Areas Act over fifty years ago. To White Capetonians, the Flats are synonymous with council housing, gang violence and tik (crystal meth) addiction. In reality, the Flats contain another, parallel Cape Town, with schools, suburbs, churches and mosques, malls and sports stadiums, and both wealth and poverty. And some of the best eating that Coloured cuisine has to offer.

So later in the week, we go to Gatesville to seek out some prime pastries. Now, no samoosa (or indeed, any Cape Malay or Coloured food) survey would be complete without a visit to Wembley Road House. ‘Wembley’, as it is fondly known to its many fans, is a takeout joint which embraces a wide variety of foods. However, I’ve only seen people there order fried and deep fried offerings. While some will swear by a double hotdog with cheese, peri peri and whopper sauce, or indeed the whoppers themselves (chopped steak on a bun with salad and whopper sauce, cheese and mushroom sauce entirely optional), we are there for the samoosas. Or so I think, until all my fellow samoosa testers fall upon the menu and started ordering, well, double hotdogs with cheese, peri peri and whopper sauce, and whopper burgers themselves. In the melee, I manage to stay focused and get in a couple orders for samoosas. Unlike at most Wembley’s meals, we restrain ourselves until we returned to Sir Moosa’s house where, in a very un-Wembley-like meal, we eat our food off plates around his diningroom table. Umolested, until his mother comes home, and promptly has a heart attack at the sight of us eating off her everyday plates. Once she has forced us to exchange our dirty plates for her best visitor’s bone china (Sir Moosa merely mumbles “Yes, Mommy” to the barrage of maternal remonstrations, attempting to look dignified with half a double hotdog in his mouth), samoosa tasting resumes.

We all agree that Wembley’s mince samoosa is the gold standard of mince samoosas, typical of the genre, but with a slightly spicier, rounder flavour. The potato samoosa is the spiciest of the ones we have sampled, generously seasoned with red pepper flakes and still crisply hot from the fryer.

We then drive over to Vangate Mall (as Sir Moosa put it, “Canal Walk of the Cape Flats”), to visit My Diner’s. Primarily a Pakistani takeout restaurant, My Diner’s nonetheless offers samoosas in the local style. We have been told not to miss out on the cheese and corn samoosas, which is certainly fine advice: fried to order, they are filled with molten cheese and kernels of corn, seasoned with fresh green chilli that packs a delayed but potent punch. At R11.95 for four, they are the most expensive samoosas we sample, but also have one of the best pastries, which flakes into a bubbly, crisp exterior and a lightly chewy, inner layer.

We finish off the day by stopping at Springroll Delicacies, a factory shop selling frozen halaal snacks. While the in-store take-away counter’s samoosas are visibly wilting, this certainly is worth a visit for those who would stock their freezers with more exotic samoosa flavours – smoked snoek, lamb and raisin and butternut dhania were three of many creative options for sale in frozen bulk boxes. Too full to contemplate another samoosa (especially Big Spoon, who supplemented the cheese samoosas with a vienna chip parcel at My Diner’s), we quit for the day.

Two days later, we finished our samoosa sampling in the Southern Suburbs, that White stronghold in the leafy shadows of Table Mountain, where I grew up, went to school, and now live (albeit on the wrong side of the railway tracks).

We celebrated our three days of samoosas with both samoosas and curry at Bibi’s. Here we ran into a problem which plagues the hospitality industry in general; consistency. Previously, I have declared Bibi’s chicken samoosa to be the hands-down best chicken samoosa in Cape Town. But on the evening we were there to sample samoosas, the chicken samoosa wasn’t up to scratch. The filling was sloppy, the flavours dull and the pastry pap. It couldn’t even be called a shadow of its former self; it was like eating an entirely different samoosa. As I once heard a chef say to (or rather, yell at) his minions, “Be consistent! If we’re going to put crap on these plates, at least be consistently crappy from one plate to the next!”

The mince samoosa cheers me up somewhat. Benefitting from a recent emergence from the fryer, it is crisp and light and the filling is both well spiced and surprisingly, gratifyingly meaty in flavour. Tight corners. It’s all about the corners.

But perhaps my most favourite samoosa of all comes from Maharajah’s in Rondebosch. Maharajah’s feeds a largely student crowd totally vegetarian fare, but even the professed mince samoosa junkies are won over by their potato samoosas. Where other samoosas are filled with potatoes because potatoes are cheap and provide a bland base for an array of throat-searing spices, Maharajah’s samoosa is all about the potato; fluffily mashed rather than chunky, it delivers plenty of clean, rich potato flavour which the spices seemed to highlight rather than overwhelm.

Getting my panel to declare an outright samoosa winner was like trying to herd cats. Not only were they unable to decide via consensus or even a majority vote, they kept on losing focus. “Oooh, let’s do gatsbies next!” one cried, only to be volubly cried down by alternate suggestions. So, I can only give you my humble opinion: I enjoyed Bibi’s beef mince samoosa, and the chicken samoosa at Mariam’s. And Maharajah’s potato samoosa is worth a visit by even the most militant mince-only samoosa-vreter (gobbler).

23 Belgravia Road, Athlone

Shop 75 (next to Ocean Basket)
Vangate Mall
Klipfontein Road, Athlone

27 Hadjie Ebrahim Crescent,
Athlone Industria 1

Broad Road Medical Centre, Wynberg

6 Rondebosch Court (behind Pick ‘n Pay)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cape Gooseberry, I'm so glad I came upon your blog. I have loved your samoosa sampler articles, made me long for a late night hot crispy spicy snack. And I agree, the Woolies samoosas are sad...

Wednesday, 15 October, 2008  
Blogger Gabriele Teale-James said...

I love the Maharjah- their samoosas are really like a gastronomical orgasm. and I really enjoyed reading this too :)

Tuesday, 29 December, 2009  

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