The best samosas in Toronto are at the Aga Khan Museum, and I enjoyed them even more with Tottenham’s victory over Manchester City

Beef samosas from the Aga Khan’s Museum’s cafetaria. Note the image is of samosas that I froze after bringing the cooked version home. I simply microwave them for 30 seconds and then place them in a toaster oven (toast mode) for 3 – 4 minutes. They turn out to be as delicious as freshly fried ones. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Do not fail to take a few dozen samosas home with you when you visit the Aga Khan Museum

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

Yesterday (April 17), the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum tasted better than ever. Let me tell you why. I have been a Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) football fan since the age of 8, thanks to my late dad, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018). We were in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, in 1961, when Spurs won the double. Every Tuesday, my dad would acquire a South African English newspaper to see the results of the weekend’s British football games. He would also use the results to predict matches that would end up as draws the following week, and enter his choices in one of the cheaper football pool such as Zetters. Like everyone else who played the pools, his hope was that from his selections of drawn games, 7 or 8 would be correct. It would make him rich overnight, provided of course there weren’t too many draws on the day. If I recall correctly, he spent a good 2-3 hours analyzing the most recent results to make his predictions. I simply wanted him to win so that he would be able to buy me a good box of coloured pencils for 12-15 escudos — times were tough! I asked him one day what team he supported the most, and his reply was “Spurs”; “and second best papa?” And he replied, “Everton.”

Spurs has been in my heart ever since. They haven’t won the English Premiere now for 59 years, and they are not going to win it this year either. Yesterday, though, they broke the hearts of Manchester City players, their highly respected manager and million of fans when in the 3rd minutes of injury time, the goal scored by City’s striker Rahim Sterling was disallowed by VAR (Video Assistance Referee) due to an off-side infringement. Moments earlier, before the VAR review, my heart had sunk to its lowest depth. Now, following VAR review, the referee’s arm went up indicating off-side and the Jumbotron flashed NO GOAL VAR OFFSIDE (watch game highlights, below). I was as excited as every Spurs fan on the face of this earth. On aggregate, the scoreline after the VAR review stood at 4-4 and Spurs eliminated City due to the away goal rule.  Spurs will play their semi-finals against Ajax — the club that was made famous by Dutch master Johan Cruyff, who is regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.

I was ecstatic with the Spurs victory. I thought of my dad; a day earlier I had even told my mum about the game and she also remembered that Tottenham “was papa’s favourite team.” DAZN has the rights to show the UEFA games in Canada through an on-line subscription, and it was not televised, so my mum could not watch it.

Click to watch highlights of incredible UEFA Champions quarter final 2nd leg between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur

After that incredible and tense victory, I needed time to recover from a roller-coaster game that saw 5 goals scored inside the first 21 minutes. My point of relaxation, I decided, would be the Aga Khan Museum, which is open until 8 PM every Wednesday. As I set forth from home, I knew what would give me the greatest pleasure — not the fantastic Moon exhibition, but the delicious samosas that are prepared for the Museum’s courtyard cafe by the highly acclaimed on-site Diwan restaurant.

As I reached the cafe counter, I raised myself to discover that the oven trays where the samosas are kept to maintain crispiness were empty. I was disappointed and told the cheerful attendant they should be turning out more of the samosas, at least on Wednesday evenings. I was relieved when he told me he had placed an order for 10 more and they would be ready in 7-10 minutes. “Do you want all 10?” I replied, “Yes, 2 to eat here and the remainder for home.”

Story continues after quote…..

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 MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM ON HIS FONDNESS FOR SAMOSAS

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John Macdonald, Ottawa.

….Earlier this evening I was struck by how quickly we are all affected by the culture we live in although it’s not our own. Bahadur Hirji, you all know, was taking pictures and he kept on saying to my wife and me “cheese” – in the end I said to him, at least if you had said “samosas” or “biriani”, I would have recognised that he was conveying a message to me — His Highness the Aga Khan, Los Angeles, November 3, 1986

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…….continued

The wait was worth every minute. I found a comfortable chair alongside the museum’s atrium. I did not turn on my Iphone. I had come to relax and did not want any intrusions. It was time to savour the Spurs victory with the best samosas in Toronto.

Samosas come in numerous varieties — ground beef and chicken as well as vegetarian. The Aga Khan Museum makes the beef and vegetarian kinds which are spiced splendidly. The version it prepares is with a thin pastry covering, not the thick and much heavier pastry that is served in the majority of Indian restaurants and supermarkets around the country. The thin pastry has always been my preferred choice. I often refer to such samosas  as Ismaili samosas, like the lentil based Ismaili bhajias, and fried muhogo (cassava), because the East African Ismaili community created its own versions of appetizers and curries (such as kuku paka, the equivalent of a Thai green/yellow/red chicken curry), pilaus and bhirianis which can be found in many restaurants across Canada run by East African Ismailis. In Vancouver, for example, restaurants such as Safari, Kilimanjaro, Simba Grill, James Cafe, Agra (across from James) come to my mind immediately. In Ottawa a trio of Ismaili sibblings, with the support of their parents, have established a magnificent catering unit under the name All Seasons Indian Catering on 2285 St. Laurent Blvd, with an East African emphasis. Of course, in addition to restaurants, many Ismaili ladies make outstanding samosas and some even cater for private parties.

As much as I have loved the fusion food at all these East African Ismaili outlets, the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum are among the finest in taste and quality. The crispiness of the samosa with its thin outer pastry, the spice level of the beef and the fact that the exterior pastry doesn’t have an oily feel to it have made me their fan. Moreover, there has never never a hint that the oil that the samosas are cooked in has been used over and over again. The samosa is slightly smaller in size than what you get in restaurants and the Museum sells them at a $1.00 each, with a 10% discount if you are a member of the museum .

Samosas are generally served with a slice of lemon that you squeeze over onto the meat after taking the initial bite. Many restaurants provide different types of chutneys such as amli (tamarind) chutney, a spicy chutney made from green chilies and coriander or even a white coconut chutney. But I am not a believer in these extra chutneys when a food item tastes delicious on its own. Two drinks that I enjoy the most with samosas are a cup of hot chai or a a can of coke. The chai sold at the Museum is a tea bagged version, which is never as satisfying as a chai that is prepared with tea leaves or tea bags combined with cinnamon sticks, elchi (cardamom pods), cloves as well as other spices, that are all boiled for a few minutes in water and milk. I make it a point to occasionally take a dozen samosas from the Museum for my afternoon tea. I freeze them, and whenever I am in the mood for samosas, I warm a couple in the microwave for 20 seconds before placing them in a toaster oven for about 3-4 minutes (in toaster setting — just as you would toast bread). Really, the result is outstanding and the previously frozen samosas come out as crispy and tasty as the freshly cooked ones.

I am generally a fast paced eater but yesterday I spent over an hour finishing two samosas and a cup of chai latte. That’s how relaxed I felt at the museum’s magnificent confines. It has a peaceful atmosphere, a fact that was noted by two new visitors to the museum as they walked by me. My mum who admonishes me for eating rapidly would have been pleased. I felt relaxed. I was savouring the samosas and I considered the time spent at the Museum as one of the finer moments in my life — with that Spurs victory. Thank you Aga Khan Museum for the best samosas in town and its founder, His Highness the Aga Khan, for  building a museum that not only has incredible exhibits and programs but also provides a truly peaceful and healing  environment when you need it the most.

To the Museum staff at the cafe and the chef at Diwan I say: “Thank you for making delicious samosas. I hope to see you over again and again, and definitely when Tottenham qualify for the finals after victory over Ajax of Amsterdam.”

I urge Torontonians and everyone visiting the city to see the Aga Khan Museum. It is fantastic and caters to every age group. The Moon exhibition (until August 18, 2019) is magnificent and highly educational, and every member of your family will love it. Then treat yourself to the samosas and take some home with you.

Date posted: April 18, 2019.
Last updated: April 20, 2019.

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