104 - Sambussa: A Portable Snack

By Mary Luz Mejia

The closest thing you'll get to street food in Ethiopia is the delicious and portable snack called sambussa. Closely resembling East Indian or Guyanese samosas, this crispy pastry packet stuffed with meat or vegetables differs in its spice and flavour composition to its Indian cousin.

If you're looking for sambussas here in Toronto, there's no need to look further than the Ethiopian Village Food & Spice on the eastern edge of the Danforth. Chef/owner Aziza Akdem has been preparing some of the most authentic Ethiopian food in town for years, starting in a small stall in Kensington Market before moving to her current, roomier digs.

Aziza begins by preparing roti-like pastry that's quickly grilled, cut into long strips and filled with either a lentil/legume mix or a minced beef filling. Everything is home-made and made with care -- she even sings a little Ethiopian lullaby-like tune when she's cooking. A special blend of herbs, spices, garlic, onions and other fresh ingredients comprise her fillings, giving her sambussas that special touch.

Once the origami-like parcels are stuffed, folded and sealed shut with a water and flour "glue," they get deep fried to golden perfection. Upon serving, you can up the heat ante by dipping your sambussa into some Ethiopian awaze sauce (or berbere spice mix) which is made with red peppers and a customized assortment of up to fifteen other spices. The milder option is Aziza's freshly made chutney which includes green peppers, onion, cardamom and salt.

Any way you dip it, sambussa's mildly sweet-hot fresh flavours are a taste sensation you'll definitely want to add to your repertoire.

Ethiopian Village Food & Spice
2229 Danforth Avenue (east of Woodbine)
Toronto, Ontario