THE HISTORY OF KATHI ROLLS
Kolkata received the sobriquet, the City of Joy, from a French author Dominique Lapierre, and it's not hard to comprehend why. The city is a melting pot of cultures, traditions and values, and the people are always warm and welcoming! It is also the street food capital of India, boasting an eclectic array of dishes. And as a Kolkata native and a foodie, I must introduce you to one of the city's most famous street foods, the kathi roll, and its birthplace, the legendary Nizam's Restaurant. Nizam's was the ultimate destination for all the connoisseurs who couldn't have enough of the scrumptious beef, khiri (cow udders) and mutton kebabs. And then one fine day, the same roasted, succulent kebabs were wrapped in fried, flaky flatbreads called parathas and the kathi roll came into being. Today, it is famous and ubiquitous the world over. And yet, the old-world charm and whiff of nostalgia add a special hard-to-replicate flavour to the Nizam's kathi roll.
As per the most commonly accepted story regarding its origin, the kathi roll came to be when Nizam’s – then known for its kebabs – was pushed into coming up with a portable snack for its hurried customers. Sheikh Hasan Reza, a petty clerk from Calcutta, decided in the early 1900s that his career wasn’t going anywhere and he’d be better off selling food. He began with a tiny stall, hawking kebabs and rotis (the thin Indian bread) and when he realized that the finicky Brits who visited his stall didn’t like getting their fingers greasy, he hit upon the idea of the kebab wrap- the kathi kebab. The kathi part of the name came later when; Nizam's used iron skewers to make their kebabs; Nizam enjoyed a virtual monopoly of this method of serving a kebab for decades, but it eventually became commonplace in Calcutta and later spread elsewhere. Nizam’s- which was the restaurant Reza soon set up- is today a popular restaurant, without any smart maître d’ or
other jazz- but with splendid food.
Making a Kati Roll
Traditionally a kathi Roll is a skewered kebab wrapped in a thin bread (paratha).
To start off, an omelette is fried in a pan as the omelette become half cooked, the paratha is placed on top combining the egg and paratah to make a soft fluffy wrap.
Chicken, mutton or beef chunks marinated in spices and cooked on skewers over coals are cooked in the mean time. When the roll is being prepared, these are taken off the skewers and tossed with onions, spices and sauces in the pan.
Lastly the wrap is garnished with sauces, herbs and a squeeze of lime. The whole thing is then rolled up in paper and of course then eaten piping hot; a delicious savoury and spicy street food which is easy to remember and more hard to forget once you’ve tasted it.