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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cooking sambusa!



A few weeks ago I got in a friendly argument with the proprietor of a milk bar near the bus station. 300 francs for a half-liter of milk? Urahenda, you are extorting! Near me it costs 200. However the sambusas LINK, homemade by his wife, were delicious. Well, after discussing the cost of rent near the bus station and how he brings the milk from his own nearby farm, I set up my couchsurfers to go milk his cows and I made a date with his wife to learn how she makes her sambusas.

Mama Jennifer made the mincemeat the night before, grinding it herself and then cooking it with onion, garlic, urusenda and a flavor packet (think bouillon plus spices plus MSG).

When I arrived she was kneading the dough, which is made from flour, water and salt.


Once the dough was ready, she divided it into equal sized balls by pinching off a fistful of dough and smoothing it. Each ball will make 4 sambusa. I tried this step and failed. It’s important that the balls be equally sized so that after they are rolled out they can be stacked with a layer of oil between them. We stacked 5 pieces at a time and rolled them even flatter.
Each stack of 5 is partially cooked on a wok-like pan, using only the small amount of oil spread on them. By doing 5 at once, the dough is strong enough to be rolled thin and multiple layers at a time can cook. When one layer was cooked, it was peeled off and the stack was flipped to cook the next. The middle piece needed very little time.



These partly-cooked sambusa wrappers are re-stacked, halved and then quartered, and folded into pockets. These are then stuffed, sealed with a paste of water and flour, and deep-fried in oil. It’s important to make sure the corners are folded tightly to keep excess oil out.
At this point we were in a big rush because, for the first time ever, someone had come to the house to make an order - 20 sambusas to serve at teatime at his guesthouse. I joined the assembly line: as Mama J. folded and stuffed, I sealed them and handed them off to a niece (?) who fried them

Mama J. makes 80 sambusa a day. At 200 RWF each, that’s 16,000 RWF, at least 8,000 of which I estimate to be profit. She doesn’t work every day, but it’s still quite a middle class living, and one funded not at all by NGOs or foreign aid.

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