Saturday, October 18, 2014

Samosas to swear by

- By Aishwarya Pramod

If you live in Mumbai, and like watching movies, chances are you’ll have eaten an A-1 samosa. They’re among the most famous samosa-makers in Mumbai. They make about 15,000 samosas a day, and supply more than 30 movie halls in the city. Whether it’s a posh multiplex or a small single screen, you’ll find them wherever you go.
Those crunchy, spicy, potato-filled triangles of happiness can make a bad movie tolerable and a good movie awesome! But to get an A-1 samosa, you don’t have to go to the  cinema, where they’re priced quite high. At their main shop in Sion, near my house, it’s 10 rupees a samosa.

The shop’s nothing fancy, and it’s often hidden from view behind a row of parked vehicles. But it's always bustling with customers. Also, A-1 doesn't sell just samosas. They have kachoris and "aloo-pops" too.

The Punjabi samosa is their classic offering – it’s the potato-filled one you get in all the theatres. My other favourites are the Cheese-Corn Samosa and the Chinese Samosa. The Chinese ones are stuffed with bright red, schezwan-flavoured noodles – but they’re really not as strange as they sound. I’ve never tried the Sweet Mawa Samosas myself, I don’t know how I feel about a sweet samosa :/

Here’s their menu (since you can't tell the samosa varieties from the previous picture):

My mother recently brought home some of A-1's paalak-paneer samosas (not on this menu). They were filled with paalak and paneer (spinach and cottage cheese). They were pretty good, but not as much paneer as I'd have liked. I think I'll stick with the Punjabi anyway.  
There are two locations where the samosas are made: the first is at Champaklal Estate, Sion East. Here, the masala / stuffing is made, and the samosas are rolled into their typical triangular shape. From Champaklal, it is taken to the A-1 outlet in Sion West, where the samosas are first 'half-fried' and kept ready. Then they are deep fried in batches and brought out front. From here, they're distributed to retail shops, cinemas, school and office canteens, caterers and party organisers. As each batch gets sold or distributed, new batches are deep fried.

The distribution process is interesting: there is an army of freelance entreprenuers on cycles, who buy samosas from A-1 daily, and sell them to various buyers across the city. Typically they have a 1 rupee margin per samosa. Sales are made in lots of 150 or 250 samosas (there is a weighing machine, so the samosas are placed on trays and weighed, not counted). Each freelance entrepreuner has his own set of contacts/buyers across the city to whom he sells.

So if you go to A-1 at any time of the day, you can see hot samosas, coming right out of giant iron woks, being piled into trays, then loaded on cycles and being taken away. The large trays you see in this photo above can hold 250.

A-1 was established more than 40 years ago by Kishanchand Nevendram, a Sindhi who came to Mumbai from Karachi, after the Partition. He is said to have left everything he had behind in Karachi. His grandson now owns the business. Anyway, here's a testament to this little shop's fame: not only do many Sion-dwellers swear by their samosas, but a friend of mine from Andheri (so far from Sion it might as well be Mars!) once came to hang out in Sion and said, "Do you know where I can try an A-1 samosa? I've heard a lot." 

So if you're ever walking around in Sion, don't forget to stop by A-1 samosa :)

Note: While A-1 has great variety, for something a bit more filling you can cross the road to the equally well known Gurukripa Hotel (Gurukripa and A-1 think of each other as simply two parts of the same business. A-1's owner is the nephew of Gurukripa's - it's all within the family). In Gurukripa you can get A-1's Punjabi samosas with some chhole (white chickpeas), garnished with some onion – delicioso!

4 comments:

Kathleen said...

Great to hear from you Aishwarya. Interesting article!

Anita said...

Nice article because I love samosas! I'm heading to Mumbai soon for a holiday and I will be bookmarking your blog for ideas on what to do and eat there, starting with A1 samosas :)

Keep up the good work

Apsara said...

i love samosa. can you please post Punjabi Samosa Recipe ?

Reshma Ashar said...

I tried their cheese corn samosas today and they were really yummy. Reminded me of the crunchy burger pattice. Totally give it a try.