BENGALURU: The quintessential kati roll was born in a smoky Mughlai restaurant in the Byzantine back alleys of Kolkata called Nizam’s way back in 1932. The classic kebab cooked on a bamboo skewer or kati (Bengali for a stick) and stuffed in a fluffy parantha, was a quick meal on the go and a substantial snack that nurtured generations of Calcuttans. The kati roll soon travelled with enterprising Bengalis to other parts of the country and was soon appropriated as Indian street food available in every nook and corner across the country. Everyone had their own secret spices, their own meat/veggie variation and their own secret sauces. From Delhi’s kakori kebab rolls to Mumbai’s aloo filled frankies, the roll has many avatars. However, it is the Kolkata-style kati roll that has survived many innovations and tempted even hardened health food junkies to break their resolve and try a bite of this delicious, greasy and complete meal on the go. Bengaluru as a shape-shifting city of expats, is home to varied cuisines and cultures including a large Bengali population, who have ensured a space for the Kolkata-style kati roll in the leafy bylanes of neighbourhoods across the city. Surprisingly, we found some delicious rolls hidden away in the backlanes of Indiranagar, an otherwise posh high street of gourmet restaurants and chic pubs. Move away from the glittery neon lights of the main roads, through the warren of bungalows and boutiques, follow the smoky smell of burning charcoal and before long, you will find yourself at these popular hole-in-the-wall establishments that have become my comfort food on blustery and rainy days.
Chakum Chukum: Calcutta on a Roll
This little roll shop tucked away in a corner off 7th Main Road, Indiranagar, is always busy and the few plastic chairs and stools outside are almost always occupied. Many others stand by waiting for the parcels or chomping down hot rolls under the tree. The three-or-four- member staff operate out of a
minuscule kitchen churning out rolls by the dozen with assembly-line precision. The parantha in each roll is equally crisp, the lemony onions creating the perfect balance with the charred edges of the kebab or veggie filling. Started by an advertising executive, Sujoy Das (also the man behind the innovative Bengali and Anglo-Indian restaurant Bow Barracks which has unfortunately shut shop) and his wife Arpita Sinha, this little joint has a loyal customer base as well as daily converts.
My favourite: their Double Chicken egg Roll where the parantha is cooked on the griddle along with egg, creating this flaky hybrid parantha-omelette which is then given that right bit of heat with the green chillies, the sweet and sour red onions and the melt-in-the-mouth tangy chicken tikkas. This one is really Kolkata on a kati retaining all the authentic flavours. Priced at `140, this is a perfect substitute for dinner. The prices start at `50.
Khan Saheb Grills and Rolls
Just down the road from Chakum Chukum, Khan Saheb is located on the ground floor of Sri Shiva Sai Complex on the 13th Cross Road, 7th Main, HAL 2nd stage, Indiranagar and is a roll shop worth patronizing. Primarily a takeaway joint, Khan Saheb makes its rolls in parantha, roomali rotis as well as whole wheat wraps. They also have a more extensive menu with kebabs and tandoori items as well as beda roti and bhuna meat combos. However, since rolls were what I wanted, rolls were what I stuck to. I tried their Chicken Reshmi Tikka Roll in a whole wheat wrap. This healthy option was surprisingly tasty and held the succulent kebab filling with elan. The Mutton Seekh Roll (one cannot have do justice to a mutton roll unless it comes in a parantha) was a delightful spicy concoction of finely ground meat kebabs and julienned onions. Priced at `70 and `120 each, the two rolls were an economical and satisfying late evening snack. While this roll joint combines the Kolkata kati roll with local flavour, it does so with finesse, making sure that kati roll junkies or wrap-eating fitness enthusiasts get their fix.
Kitchen of Joy
This tiny and cheerful snack joint is bedecked with snapshots of Kolkata-and little tables and mudas where your knees and elbows might graze against your neighbours. Apart from chops, samosas, Maggi and a range of teas, the little shop modelled after a neighboured snack joint in Kolkata, also serves kati rolls.
I picked a Chicken Egg roll and was surprised to find a generous portion of a tawa-style chicken stuffed inside a flaky parantha. While there are some who argue that the regular kati roll can sometimes be a tad too dry, this roll is the answer to all those cribs.
Coated in a spicy sauce, onions and slivers of capsicum, this roll is hearty and fillling. Quell your tingling tastebuds with a sweet rosogolla from the same shop and you will leave as a happy camper. The Chicken Egg roll is competitively priced at ` 90.