Not long ago, a friend told us that he was craving certain samosas made and sold in a small kiosk in the neighbourhood. Eastleigh’s fourth street, to be precise. He asked us (two other friends and me) to accompany him to the joint for a quick takeaway after work. What he didn’t tell us was that the joint, run by a very sharp and hardworking middle aged mother, was popular among the residents of that side of the neighbourhood.
When we reached the joint, we saw a very long queue of at least 20 people all scrambling to get their share. “What is in these samosas?” one of my friends wondered aloud. I saw the queue and immediately gave up because it was stretching to the street, and all the people in it were in contention to get the freshly made snack. We told our friend to just give up as well and come back another day, and he replied “You know nothing about this place; it is like this every day and I have gotten used to it. Just give me 10 to 15 minutes and I will be done.”
The place is well-run and well managed, with seven employees who all work round the clock with the owner and serve a neverending queue of samosa lovers.
The samosas are baked inside and cooked outside under a big umbrella. Two of the guys bake and mold the flour, two of them cook the samosa, one cooks mandazi (another fried bread common in East Africa), one washes the dishes and other the stuff meant for cooking and distributing the samosas and the mandazi and another helps the woman serve the customers who are always scrambling to be served. The queues are two; one for the ladies, served by the woman, and another for the men served by the male employee.
The ladies’ queue is organized and moves swiftly, unlike the men’s where they push and shove each other. They were scrambling so hard that the woman at one point said, “Stop pushing each other. You will fall into this hot oil.” She said those words with a serious face while standing and putting down the big spoon she was scooping the samosas with. I could see her disappointment as she picked up the spoon to start serving again after that stern warning.
My friend joined the queue and told us to await him by the side of the kiosk. We all somehow became curious and told him to pick some for us as well; all the orders are take-away. The whole thing piqued my curiosity more and I went around the queue, looked inside the small kiosk and scrutinized it well.
Everything is well organized and the atmosphere inside showed that everyone knew his aspect of the job. The baking guys were busy, making dough after dough, and so was the guy involved with dishes and the general cleaning. In one corner, I could see the handbag of the lady owner, she must have probably put it there in the morning when she opened the place. It looked like it has not been touched or opened for hours, a slight hint of how busy everyone is in that small kiosk. At the front, the three guys were cooking the freshly made doughs making sure the woman and the guy serving the customers didn’t run out of samosas and manzais to serve. They moved simultaneously and with a rapid pace.
You could sense that those hands have made more than 1000 samosas that day. Rough hands with stains of wet flour all over, that have mastered the craft and the tools; hands that must be eager to go home and soak themselves in cold water to forget the day’s hot oil and fire. Hands that are clothing, feeding and educating beautiful kids who may not know how their dad is braving hot oil and fire.
The kiosk is well run and managed, makes good and delicious samosas, but I didn’t like the way people scramble to get them. I don’t like contention and I will for sure fail if I go there alone and try to get a few pieces and meet a long queue like the one we saw, but my aim is to sit and have a word with the owner. I don’t know if I will get the samosas, but I will definitely extract from her the secret that made her joint so popular, and her samosas so delicious.
Our friend finally emerged from the horde of people on the entrance with a big grin and a paper bag in hand. As we left, men were still struggling in the queue to outmuscle each other to be served first.
Oh boy, those people make some tasty samosas! I said to myself, “after all, those guys had a reason to scramble for these.” Because there is nothing else to explain why so many people will scramble for samosas made in this small joint while there are many big and famous restaurants around.
Filled with minced chicken meat cooked with coriander, onions and chilly, the samosas tasted spicy. I couldn’t put them down as I quickly and happily washed down three of them plus one mandazi with avocado juice. The fact that they were still warm (because the distance between my house and joint is 10 minutes’ walk) made them more tasty and enjoyable. Both their samosas and mandazis were better than what is served in many big restaurants in the neighbourhood. First, they were soft and had no hard and rough edges that is known to be the texture of most samosas. This was perhaps due to how they was baked and later cooked. And second, the ingredient they used was a good combination making them taste spicy and delicious as well. Sometimes, you realise that the small food joints we overlook for more fancier and bigger hotels serve the best dishes out there with relatively lower prices.
I was awestruck. How didn’t I notice this place for so long? Of course it is located in a far side of the neighbourhood, a place I pass by once or twice a year. The following morning, at work, I told my friend and colleague that he has been hiding a samosa haven, and he laughed.