|Pakistan's favorite street food, eaten indoors or out|
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Long before the Tufial brothers -- Abdul and Kashif -- decided to open Chai Shai, a cozy tea-and-samosa shop near the University of Missouri-Kansas City (where both young men are students), they had another business: a wholesale operation making samosas to sell, frozen, to local Indian markets and restaurants.
"I know this doesn't sound very humble," says Kashif Tufial, "but our samosas had to be the best. Our clientele was the fussiest and most demanding. They were selling our product to their regular customers."
The wholesale business is on hold right now because the Tufials can barely keep up the demand for the freshly made samosas required for the customers at Chai Shai. It's the best-selling dish at the tiny cafe.
The Food Lover's Companion describes samosas -- a wildly popular street food in India and Pakistan -- as "fried, rectangular pastries that may be filled with vegestables or meat or a combination of both."
"They're the king of street food in Pakistan," Kashif Tufial says. "Kansas City doesn't have a huge market for street food. In Pakistan, like New York, there are food carts everywhere. A samosa vendor would be the equivalent, I guess, of a streetcar vendor selling hot dogs or pizza in the United States. And there's every possible variation, from samosas the size of sandwiches to tiny, cocktail-sized pastries. And they can be savory or sweet."
There are three savory versions of the samosa at Chai Shai: seasoned ground beef, season ground chicken or an excellent vegetable version. "We sell more vegetarian samosas than anything else," Kashif Tufial says. "There are a lot of vegetarians in this neighborhood."
The triangle of light, flaky fried pastry enfold a filling of potatoes, peas, fresh cilantro and spices. They are particularly delicious with Chai Shai's coriander-and-green-chili dipping sauce (addictively good).
"They make a great light midday meal or a snack," Kashif Tufial says. We had to start closing the cafe on Mondays just so we could do enough prep work to always have enough samosas on hand."