Uyghur meat pies cooked under the broiler

My beautiful picture

Samsa seller in Kashgar in the mid-90s

This weekend I made an exciting discovery. I found that I can use my gas oven’s broiler to replicate tonur-style Uyghur meat pies (a.k.a. samsa سامسا).

Uyghur samsa are delicious. The filling is simply fatty mutton, finely-chopped onions, salt, cumin, sometimes pepper. The shell is a just unleavened wheat flour dough. This food item exists in several iterations across Eurasia. Samsa can also be made with ingredients other than mutton. Pumpkin samsa are popular, and chopped potatoes and other ingredients (like the South Asian cousin samosa) are also delicious.

My beautiful picture

Delicious samsa from a Uyghur roadside seller, Kashgar, mid 90s

In Xinjiang, samsa are generally cooked in tonur ovens (a traditional Uyghur super-hot wood fire oven). This is part of the reason why I rarely attempted cooking these at home, since it is difficult to replicate that burst of heat that can blister the shell of the meat pie as well as cook through to the raw ingredients inside.

Following are some images of baking samsa in a tonur oven, from a trip to Ghulja:

making samsa Ghulja

Readying each meat pie by wiping the bottoms with a little water before sticking them to the bell-shaped walls of the hot tonur oven

placing samsa

placing samsa 2

As you can see from the images above, that kind of baking is hard to replicate with standard home implements.

But then I thought… why not try the broiler? I figured the meat pies are kind of thin, maybe I could drop the broiler pan down low, keep an eye on them, and flip them when they are cooked on one side.

The result worked. The shell was nicely browned, and the filling did cook through completely. I am very excited with how it turned out, but you really have to keep an eye on them. You are basically grilling with an unpredictable flame. If the oven gets too hot, the flame will turn off. Because of that, you might need to open the oven door to force the oven temp to drop and restart the flame. All ovens are different, so you will have to experiment. Electric heating elements might also work with this.

Recipe: Broiler samsa ئۆي سامسىسى

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mix some finely chopped mutton, mutton fat, onion, cumin, salt, and pepper. For best results fry a small spoon in a pan to taste for seasonings. Should be a touch more salty than you think it should be, because the wrapper will be kind of bland.

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Mix some bread flour (or all-purpose flour) with some water. You can add a little salt, but salt in the dough is not necessary. I tried two recipes, one with egg, and one without. I actually liked the one without better. Flatten a small egg-sized dough ball into a circle and fill with meat mixture. I folded my pies like I recall seeing them in Xinjiang, pentagonal. My seams weren’t very good, and some of them opened while baking. That didn’t bother me in the least.

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I dropped the broiler pan as low as it could go, to give about 5-6 inches clearance between the flame and the samsa

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Keep a close eye, they cook quickly. Flip them when they cook on one side.

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Tastes right to me.

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About David Dettmann

Food obsessed and frequently nostalgic.
This entry was posted in - Featured Food Discoveries, - Recipes, Central Asia/Uyghur food and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Uyghur meat pies cooked under the broiler

  1. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pravit says:

    Those samsa look seriously delicious. Nice touch with the broiler!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The pleasures of Bustleton Ave, or, “amazing Uzbek and Georgian food finds in Northeastern Philadelphia | Asian Markets of Philadelphia

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