Every Brummie knows a good samosa when we eat one. They started to appear as office treats around the turn of the millennium. Asian colleagues would come in laden with boxes of meat or veg samosa and sometimes paneer spring rolls. Always warm, the smell filled the office, you’d be drooling into your keyboard whilst you wait for the “come get em!” email to ping into your inbox. Like a flash you’d have downed two, one meat one veg of course, it would be rude not too. So much better than cheap and nasty supermarket doughnuts or sweets.
But when I see this one samosa vendor every month at Moseley Farmers Market* selling dreadful meat samosa half filled with onion and half filled with meat paste for £1 each, I do wonder if non-Asian Brummies know where to buy good samosa from? So here’s a guide, it’s not comprehensive, we’ve only really done the Stratford road in Sparkhill and couple of Black Country favourites. I’d be interested in any tips on the Ladypool Rd, Soho Rd or Coventry Rd.
I had help in this tasting, my buddies Yen, Yin and Paul were greedy enough to sample 16 items with me. We judged the pastry separately and gave a score to that. Then gave scores for overall meat and veg experiences separately too. Dips and sauces were not considered.
33 Barcroft Road, Wolverhampton WV2 3HF
Tel: 01902 451113
Uppals is in an area filled with Seikh temples, usually a good sign that proper Indian food is to be found. A large shop with car park so easy to transport big boxes stuffed with deep fried delights. A veg samosa is 20p here, so for £20 you could walk away with a very big box indeed. Meat samosa is 40p. Medium sized samosas with a good bubbly crisp pastry. The potato and pea filling in the veg samosa was decent, a standard samosa, balanced spicing not greasy. Meat was disappointing, flavour was ok but a meat paste filling with not much lamb flavour.
Pastry: 7 (out of 10) Meat: 5 Veg: 6
Punjabi Sweet & Curry House (aka Punjabi Sweet Centre)
285/287 High Street, Smethwick B66 3NJ
Tel: 0121 565 2187
A nice sit down cafe type place, with a full menu of other dishes but nothing was going to distract us from the samosa tasting. Veg and meat samosas same price as Uppal’s, 20p and 40p, they were also almost identical to eat too. We couldn’t split them, maybe there’s a Punjabi/Seikh way of making samosa and this is it? If it is they should stop using meat paste, poor texture and flavour.
Pastry: 7 Meat: 5 Veg: 6
451-455 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4LD
Tel: 0121 772 0631
A Sparkhill institution, this place has grown and grown over the decades, moving from one side of the road to the other in its expansion. There seems to be some collusion in pricing along the Stratford Rd, all veg samosa are 40p and meat samosa are 50p. Small beans really so I won’t bother reporting to the Competition Commission. This Pakistani style of samosa has smooth unblistered pastry, very different to the Uppal/Punjabi ones but good all the same. The veg filling overall was a little undercooked, I didn’t mind it texturally but my co-eaters did not like it at all, it was a bit forgettable in terms of taste too. The meat filling was fantastic however. Well-browned lamb mince (not paste) filling the pocket amply, great spicing and flavour.
Pastry: 7 Meat: 7.5 Veg: 5.5
Ishfaq’s Sweets & Take Away
531 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4LP
Tel: 0121 772 6849
A small shop opposite Hajee’s Spices (ex Antelope pub), the samosas are fried on the street alongside jalebi and pakoras. These flaccid examples had by far the worst pastry, thin and soggy. So even if it had a decent filling it would struggle to be an average samosa. Neither fillings were good. In particular the meat had a dubious off grey colour. Avoid.
Pastry: 2 Meat: 4.5 Veg: 4
Suraj Sweet Centre
703 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4DN
Tel: 0121 778 5100
A vegetarian shop in the middle of Springfield Parade. A totally different kind of samosa. The pastry is thin and crisp more like thick filo than the standard. Folded differently too, no crimping along one edge. The difference follows through to the spicing, lovely warm flavours with cinnamon dominant. The shop is a favourite of mine anyway, comprehensive range of chevdo and tasty rasmalai to be found here.
Pastry: 7 Meat: N/A Veg: 7
Best Pakora Shop
772 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4BP
Tel: 0121 777 6633
Not a very good hygiene record this place, we do this so you don’t have to. You certainly needn’t bother yourself with the meat samosa, it’s half-filled with potato. We all felt cheated by this and couldn’t see past it, hence the lowest score of all. It’s a shame because the pastry is good, non-greasy and light. The place redeems itself with its veg offering, a good samosa with bags of flavour.
Pastry: 6.5 Meat: 3.5 Veg: 7
826 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4BS
Tel: 0121 777 6777
Still with us? Good, because I’ve saved the best for last. The tasting panel had Sweet Mahal’s samosas cold but even then it was crispy and light. I like the greasiness of the pastry here, it helps with lubrication and is less noticeable when it’s warm. Trust me I’ve had a lot of these samosas. The meat samosa is packed with chunky well-browned lamb mince, wonderful flavour with whole spices, cumin and fennel popping in your mouth. The same assertive spicing is found in the veg samosa. There’s no doubt amongst my co-eaters and myself that Sweet Mahal is the overall winner of this taste test. For me I still find it hard to separate the meat samosa from here and Mushtaq’s.
Pastry: 7.5 Meat: 8 Veg: 7.5
pps. (paneer post script)
In our travels we sampled some paneer spring rolls too, Uppal’s was the winner here. Crisp pastry, nicely seasoned cheesy paneer, sweet onion and pea filling. All 40p each.
* This chap comes all the way from Coventry to sell this rubbish, he doesn’t sell local to himself. I’m not alone in thinking this. As a different samosa vendor muttered, he doesn’t crap on his own doorstep. I could not have put it any better.