Recipe: Sambusak el Tawa (Chickpea Turnovers)


Pastry Dough:

  • 2/3  up ice water
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 3 cups plus 2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 5 tbsp. unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 5 tbsp. cut into 1-inch pieces, placed on a plate and refrigerated until needed 

Garbanzo Bean Filling:

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp. ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2c. cooked or drained and rinsed canned garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp. finely minced Italian flat-leaf parsley, dill, chives, or a mixture

For frying sambusak:

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  • 2-3c. canola oil

For baking sambusak:

  • 1 egg whisked with 1 tsp. water
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling


Pastry dough:

  1. Stir together water and salt in a small bowl until salt is fully dissolved.  Keep refrigerated until needed.
  2. Place flour in the work bowl of a food processor. Sprinkle chilled butter pieces evenly over flour and pulse machine only until coarse crumbs form. You should still have small pieces of flour-coated butter.
  3. Remove water/salt mixture from refrigerator. While pulsing machine, drizzle water mixture through food tube until everything is evenly moistened and mixture begins coming together. 
  4. Turn contents of food processor bowl out onto a lightly floured counter. Gather mixture together with your hands, pressing on dough to flatten. Proceed with Step 5. (To mix dough by hand, place flour in a large bowl. Evenly distribute butter over dry ingredients. Using fingertips or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle cold water/salt mixture over flour quickly blend together with a fork. Gather dough together, place on countertop, and press it against countertop until a smooth ball can be formed. Proceed with Step 5.)
  5. Position two pieces (approximately 12 inches long) of plastic wrap on countertop. Cut ball of dough into two equal pieces, place each piece onto plastic wrap and press into flat disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.  (At this point, dough disks may be placed in a freezer bag and kept frozen for up to one month. Allow bag of dough to sit overnight in the refrigerator before continuing.)

Garbanzo bean filling:

  1. Warm olive oil in a medium skillet.
  2. Add minced onions and sauté until soft but not browned, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, turmeric, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
  4. Add garbanzo beans and stir to combine. Use a fork or a potato masher to roughly mash the ingredients together.
  5. Stir in parsley and remove pan from heat.
  6. Taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Stir in the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil; let cool. 

To assemble:

  1. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. If frying sambusak, fill a deep medium pot halfway with canola oil and heat to 350 degrees. If baking sambusak, preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Roll out one disc of pastry dough, 1/8  to ¼-inch thick, on a lightly floured counter. Lift dough occasionally to make sure it is not sticking (dust counter with additional flour as needed).  
  3. Using a 3 to 3½-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles from the dough; reroll scraps as needed. Press a heaping teaspoon of dough into your hand and press it together. Place pressed filling into center of circle and fold circle of dough in half to form a crescent or half-moon shape. Use the tines of a fork to decoratively seal the sambusak; then carefully lift them onto prepared pans. Continue filling. Repeat with remaining disc of dough until all pastry has been used.
  4. If frying sambusak, carefully lower three or four turnovers into the hot oil. Fry for 30-45 seconds, and then turn over and fry other side until both sides are light golden brown. Transfer to a layer of paper towels. Cool slightly and serve.
  5. If baking sambusak, make sure to place them an inch apart on baking sheets. Brush sambusak with egg/water mixture, and sprinkle them with sesame seeds.  Bake about 30 minutes or until sambusak are golden brown.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 15-18 minutes and serve.

Makes about 30 sambusak.