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Samsa and Company, Explained

Developing over many centuries, Bukharian cuisine has been influenced by Uzbek, Persian and many other food cultures of ancient and modern civilizations.

Here. we want to tell you about some of the most famous dishes in Bukharian cuisine. Many of them are also shared by other Central Asian cultures.  


Samsa is a traditional Central Asian pastry stuffed with meat or vegetables or other fillings. It is often made with layered dough.

The traditional samsa has been traditionally baked in the tandoor, which is a special clay oven. Now, with all the modern implements widely available, many producers and restaurants use electric or other modern equipment to bake samsa to speed up and cheapen the process. But make no mistake: in Chaikhana Sem Sorok, samsa is always baked in the real, old-school tandoor.

We are often asked, is samsa the same as samosa, which is popular on the Indian subcontinent. And there is also sambusa, popular in Ethiopia and Somalia. Yes, in essence, they all are basically baked pastry with a savory filling. And they have a similar name. So…

Well, first of all, samosas and sambusas are usually deep-fired, while samsas are baked in the tandoor. This obviously results in different taste. Second, samosas and sambusas are almost always triangular, while samsas can have different shapes (in Chaikhana Sem Sorok, for example, bichak - or pumpkin samsa - is triangular, while lamb- or beef-filled ones come in a more rounded form).

Speaking of the names, samsa, samosa and sambusa all come from the Persian word sanbosag, meaning “triangular bun”.

Now, we in Chaikhana Sem Sorok make several types of samsa:


The main ingredient is - you got it - minced lamb, mixed with onions and some spices. Our lamb samsa is round-shaped, has a sprinkle of seeds on it, and is served with a small cup of Chaikhana's very own secret-recipe sauce


The main ingredient here is minced beef, mixed with onions and some spices. Our beef samsa is round-shaped, similar to lamb samsa, but with no seeds on it, and is also served with a small cup of our special sauce


Finally, a unique pumpkin samsa, aka bichak. As you might imagine, it has pumpkin as well as some pepper inside. It is triangle-shaped. And no, it's not only for holiday season. We cook it every day for an entire year. One may say it's a moveable feast!

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