Salmon Sambuus

Time2 hours
YieldsMakes 32
Pacific salmon fills these Somali dumplings, fried until crisp and served with green hot sauce.
(Ifrah Ahmed / For The Times)
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These Somali sambuus, a cousin of the Indian samosa, are filled with aromatics and wild salmon, a nod to Ifrah Ahmed’s upbringing in Seattle. “They’re typically made for special celebrations like weddings and Eid, or during specific times of the year like Ramadan,” says Ahmed. “It’s typically made with beef, but I grew up in the Somali community of Seattle, which meant a fusion of Pacific Northwest and Somali food cultures.

“Using flour tortillas is such an easy way to make sambuus. You can make the dough yourself, but I grew up eating sambuus with tortilla, so I like that flavor better. Some people also use egg roll wrappers too. I will always defend the use of tortillas, because it’s cheap, easy and saves time. It also helps working-class folks like my family get traditional foods on the table faster.”


In a large nonstick skillet or saucepan, arrange the salmon skin side-down. Cover with water, then bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue simmering the salmon until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula, lift the salmon from the water and transfer to a plate to cool. Clean the skillet and wipe dry.


Once the salmon is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and any bones. Flake the salmon into large pieces and add back to the skillet. Stir in the cilantro, cumin, coriander, vegetable seasoning, garlic, onion and scallions. Place the skillet over medium heat. Once the ingredients start sizzling, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool completely. Season the filling with salt and pepper.


In a small bowl, stir together the flour and water to make a thick paste. Working with one tortilla at a time (see Note, below), cut the tortilla in half to create two half-moons, then cut those pieces in half again to get four triangular pieces. Set aside three of the pieces.


On a clean work surface, situate one triangular piece so that the rounded side is closest to you and the top corner is pointed away from you. Lift the left hand corner up and fold it over so that it make a point in the center of the rounded side, pointing toward you. Using a pastry brush or your finger, brush a small amount of the flour paste over the fold piece. Lift the right hand corner up and fold it over the paste-covered section so that their edges line up and the piece forms a cone.


Lift the cone off the work surface and hold in your left hand so that the original top corner is still farther away from you and the overlapped side is closest to you. Fill the cone with about 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture. Take the tip extending from the overlapped side and tuck it into the cone, covering the filling. Brush some of the flour paste on the overlapped side where it’s bent, and then fold the top corner from the opposite side over to meet the paste, closing the cone. Use any excess paste to fill in and glue all seams.


Repeat with the remaining tortilla pieces and tortillas, more flour paste and the filling to make more sambuus. Transfer the sambuus to a parchment paper- or foil-lined baking sheet as you work. Once finished, clean the skillet and wipe dry.


Pour oil into the skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch and heat over medium-high heat until a sambuus lowered into the oil starts sizzling immediately. Add 4 to 6 sambuus to the oil and fry, flipping once halfway through, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the sambuus to paper towels to drain and cool. Repeat frying the remaining sambuus.


Serve the sambuus while hot with the Basbaas on the side.

Basbaas (Green Somali Hot Sauce)


In a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro, vinegar, coriander, cumin, garlic, jalapeños, onion and lime juice and puree until smooth. Add more vinegar if you want a looser sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Warming tortillas
To warm the tortillas before using, you can place them directly on the rack in a 350-degree oven and warm for 20 to 30 seconds, or warm them in a large skillet over medium heat for about 15 seconds per side.
Make Ahead:
The sambuus can be made ahead of time and frozen. Freeze completely on the baking sheet and then transfer to a storage container or zip-top plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to three months.