We find you the best places to sample the city’s fabled rolls.
Street food in Kolkata is an integral part of the city’s identity. And the rolls are perhaps the most fabled of the streetside offerings. One can spot at least one fast food joint or stall selling rolls in every neighbourhood. “It is filling, easy to eat while you are on the move and saves time,” says Anurag Sen, a college student and roll aficionado.
Food critic Nandan Bagchi says, “The roll is a unique Kolkata product which has been copied in other parts of the country. None could, however, match the taste of the original kathi kebab of Kolkata.” Baghchi attributes much of the success to the method of preparation and recipes, saying that the reason for the failure of others may be that the shops in Kolkata use the charcoal sigri to grill kebabs, while “others make use of chicken curry and wrap it in chapati”. The secret lies also in the spices used for the marination of the kebabs as well as the process of grilling.
We went roll-sampling to bring you the best of the fare on offer. And these are the ones that were a cut above. Or should we say, a kathi above the rest.
Nizam’s Restaurant is regarded as the birthplace of the kathi roll. As the story goes, a hurried British guest was once offered a kebab wrapped in a chapati by the cook. The guest loved it so much that the cook kept working on the idea till it eventually evolved into what we know as the roll today.
Set up in 1932, the restaurant started selling spicy kebabs rolled in parathas which soon became a craze and came to be known as ‘kathi rolls’. The name originates from ‘kathi’ or bamboo skewers with which they make their kebabs. Specially marinated slices of meat are cooked on the bamboo skewers on a coal sigri. The kebabs are then rolled into a layered paratha, sprinkled with a secret masala, thinly-sliced onions, green chillies and a pudina chutney. The shop sells more than 800 kathi rolls a day. And the variety on offer is quite mind-boggling.
“We do not add any synthetic sauce or chutney. The secret of our kathi rolls is the masalas with which we marinate our meat,” says Mohammed Islam Khan, the manager of the restaurant.
Price: Rs 15 for an simple egg or potato roll, Rs 20 for a paneer roll, Rs 26 for a mutton roll and Rs 24 for a chicken roll. Prices also vary with the combination of filling. For instance, a double chicken and egg kathi roll would cost about Rs 60.
Where: On Hogg’s Street, near New Market
Saima Dhaba, owned by Md Shaukat Ali, boasts a loyal clientele. The eatery caters mainly to college students and office-goers who grab a roll on the way to work. The 15-year-old shop has become extremely popular over the years. They also deliver rolls free. Daily sales here can go up to 600-700 rolls a day.
Price: Rs 12 for a vegetable roll. A double chicken, single egg roll will set you back Rs 38.
Where: Near Rabindra Sadan
One can find 20 varieties of kathi rolls at Kusum, another popular roll destination. “We customise rolls according to the customer’s taste and charge on combination of the filling of the roll,” says Md Akhtar, the cook who has worked at Kusum for 10 years. The shop has sold kathi rolls for over three decades.
Price: Rs 13 for an egg roll, Rs 22 for a paneer roll. The price goes up to a maximum of Rs 50 for a double chicken, single egg roll
Where: On Park Street
Campari specialises in chicken rolls. The kathi rolls of Campari taste different from others because the pieces of meat are marinated and then cooked in a tandoor. Parathas are fried in very little oil, keeping in mind the current preoccupation with low fat content among customers. Campari does not use synthetic sauces, only sliced onions with the meat in the filling. Campari sells 150-200 rolls a day. During Durga Puja, sales can go up to 250 rolls a day. “We pay special attention to the hygiene and do not compromise on quality for quantity,” says Nandita Mitra, the owner.
Price: Rs 28 for all chicken, egg and mutton rolls. You will have to pay Rs 38 for special chicken and mutton rolls.
Where: Gariahat, south Kolkata