Kolkata is famous for its street food, and one of the defining street foods of Kolkata is the kati roll, or as it’s sometimes called when sold in other cities, Kolkata roll. The roll in Kolkata is a legacy of Nizam’s, the legendary joint in Esplanade.
The roll was not created as a dish for a relaxed dine-out, but rather one to be eaten hurriedly – just some pieces of kebab wrapped up inside a parantha. It is still the go-to food for one in a hurry, but it is also a food to linger on with, to let its divine aroma engulf one’s olfactory cells.
The story goes that one day a foreigner in a hurry asked Raza Hassan Saheb, the founder of Nizam’s (named after his son) for something light and spicy, and which he could eat on the way. The kebab specialist did what he could best – take pieces of chicken out of the day’s curry (during those days – the early decades of the 20th century – there were only three kinds of kebabs – mutton, beef and khiri (cow udders)), debone them, shake off the gravy, roll them up in a parantha and wrap up the roll with wax paper to prevent the oil from sticking to the hand. Thus was born the roll, something which was synonymous with Nizam’s for many years to come.
The huge success of Nizam’s rolls made others copy its idea. Many became equally famous over the years, and gradually the roll became ubiquitous with Kolkata street grub.
Here’s a list of 10 places in the city where some of the best rolls are served.
Nizam’s, at Hogg Street, near New Market
The ‘king’ of Kolkata rolls is undoubtedly Nizam’s. The joint has undergone ups and downs, but its rolls still remain top class. Nizam’s has two kinds of rolls – the classic rolls with meat kebabs, onions and chutney, and the Nawab Rolls made of the lighter roomali roti and stuffed with kebabs. One can choose from a wide range of kebabs like chicken Kashmiri roll and mutton Shikampur roll, but the classic egg-chicken roll is still magical.
Nizam’s rolls (indiamike.com)
Kusum Rolls, at Karnani Mansion, Park Street
Kusum Rolls on Park Street is a two-decade old institution. It is famous for its pocket-friendly, yet delicious rolls. Loaded with meat and sauces, yet not overtly spicy, the taste of the rolls has had staunch loyalists. Vegetarians need not be disappointed, as there are paneer rolls and mayonnaise rolls too.
Kusum Rolls on Park Street (migrationology.com)
Nawab Snacks Bar, on Rashbehari Avenue, Gariahat
There are many roll shops in Gariahat, each vying for the top spot. Nawab Snacks Bar, at Gariahat crossing, is famous for its light and sumptuous rolls. Unlike the other roll shops which have a thicker, flakier parantha, the parantha here is light, while the stuffing is less spicy, with just a hint of lemon to go with it. One can spice things up, though, with onions and chillies. Standing on the footpath in the sweltering heat, Nawab’s light rolls can warm the heart as well as fill the tummy.
Roll counter at Nawab Snacks Bar (zomato.com)
Smokaccino, on Sarat Bose Road, Deshapriya Park
To cater to the ‘oil-free’ generation, Smokaccino has specialised in oil-free rolls, rolls which are low on calories, but just as high on taste. For fully loaded rolls, the double chicken roll, the paneer shashlik roll, or the special rolls like the chicken hariyali kebab roll and the reshmi kebab roll, are hard to best.
Smokaccino roll (zomato.com)
Hot Kati Roll, at Park Estate, Park Street
Hot, oily, spicy but delicious… that’s a quintessential Kolkata kati roll. Hot Kati Roll, at the junction of Park Street, nails it perfectly with its fried paranthas, a row of chicken kathi kebabs, onions and pepper. The result is a slightly oily parantha, crispy at the sides, filled with crunchy onions and soft chicken… enough to take one to food heaven!
Hot Kati Roll (ovshake.blogspot.in)
Jabbrr Afghani, outside City Centre Mall, Salt Lake
If big rolls are one’s choice, then this is the place to head to. Jabbrr Afghani has the usual menu of chicken roll, mutton roll and egg roll, but its specialty is the ‘Jabbrr Roll’, an essentially double chicken/mutton roll with cheese (and yes, one can ask for double cheese too!).
Jabbrr Afghani (zomato.com)
Campari, at Rashbehari Avenue, Gariahat
Shopping builds up the appetite like nothing else! And that’s why Campari, at the centre of the shopping district of South Kolkata, is legendary. Campari is the food-stop for all roll-lovers burdened with their bags. The Campari special chicken/mutton roll, tandoori fish roll and egg chicken roll are all must-haves.
Making rolls (remotetraveler.com)
Anamika Roll Centre, at Triangular Park, New Alipore
Most roll shops in Kolkata are simply small establishments on the pavements which lure people with the aroma of food wafting in the air. One such establishment is Anamika Roll Centre, whose customers swear by the mutton roll and the egg mutton roll. The menu is mind-boggling, with additions to the basic roll as one proceeds! So, there’s egg mutton potato roll and double egg double mutton roll too.
Saima Restaurant, on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, near Rabindra Sadan Metro Station
Nearly every roll shop in Kolkata has its specials, but Saima Restaurant, a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant, serves the best ‘keema’ roll, called ‘Sami Roll’ on the menu. The parantha is stuffed with a generous helping of spicy mutton keema, chillies, a dash of lime, and drizzled with more chilli sauce. One is left licking one’s fingers, for the sauce and oil that leaks out as one bite into the soft keema. Sami roll will definitely have one swooning!
Gr8 Rolls and Wraps (Multiple outlets)
If one is to think of gourmet rolls in Kolkata, the outlet, or rather, the chain of outlets, that comes to mind is Gr8 (pronounced ‘great’). This chain has carved a niche for itself with its delicious oil-free rolls. If one wants to stick true to the traditional roll, one can try the kosha mangsho/kosha murgi roll, which has an omelette and red hot meat curry rolled inside the parantha; or, one can break free from the clutter with the mild, succulent and light Malaimar chicken roll. Egg lovers can try the egg, chilli and cheese roll – a classic combo. The choice of rolls at Gr8 is wide.
The Gr8 outlet on Rashbehari Avenue (indiaretailing.com)
With inputs from tripigator.com
Lead image: sharmilazkitchen.com