Kathi Roll: Kolkata's Iconic Street Food Wrap

The Kathi Roll, an iconic street food from Kolkata, traces its history back to the early 20th century. It is believed to have originated at Nizam's, a popular eatery in the bustling Esplanade area of Kolkata. The roll's inception is attributed to the ingenious idea of wrapping succulent kebabs in parathas, making it a portable and convenient meal for busy, on-the-go customers.

The name "Kathi" holds historical significance as it refers to the skewers (kathi in Bengali) used to grill the tender meat fillings, typically marinated with an array of aromatic spices. Over time, the Kathi Roll's popularity surged, and it became an integral part of Kolkata's culinary culture, earning a place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Today, it has transcended its regional origins, gaining recognition as a delectable street food enjoyed across India and beyond.

The Paratha

The paratha plays a crucial role in making a Kathi roll as it serves as the wrap that holds together the flavorful fillings. The paratha's soft and slightly chewy texture provides the perfect balance to the well-seasoned meats or vegetables, creating a delightful combination of tastes and textures in every bite. Its pliability ensures that the roll can be easily rolled and handheld, making it a convenient street food option.

In Kathi rolls, various types of parathas are used to offer diverse and exciting flavour profiles. The traditional plain paratha acts as a neutral base, allowing the filling's flavours to shine through. The addition of eggs imparts richness and adds an extra dimension to the roll. Mint parathas infuse a refreshing herbal note, while multi-layered parathas provide a flaky, buttery experience. Each paratha variant brings its own uniqueness to the Kathi roll, enhancing its appeal and making it a versatile street food cherished by food enthusiasts.

Filling and Spices

The filling of a Kathi roll is the heart of its delectable taste. For meat-based rolls, tender pieces of chicken or mutton are commonly used. The preparation involves marinating the meat in a mixture of yoghurt, lime juice, ginger-garlic paste, and a blend of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, and chilli powder. The marination process infuses the meat with intense flavours and ensures it remains succulent and juicy after cooking.

For vegetarians, the filling can include paneer, potatoes, or a medley of vegetables. The marination process might differ, with the vegetables often being tossed in a mix of spices and sauces. To enhance the flavours further, Kathi rolls are generously drizzled with sauces like mint chutney, tamarind chutney, or spicy mayonnaise. These sauces add tanginess, freshness, and a hint of heat, complementing the rich and flavorful filling. The combination of well-marinated fillings and carefully selected spices and sauces is what makes Kathi rolls an irresistible and cherished street food delight.

Preparation Technique

Assembling a Kathi roll requires finesse and precision to ensure the perfect blend of flavours in every bite. Here's a step-by-step guide to the preparation technique:

1. Paratha: Start by heating a plain or flavoured paratha on a flat griddle, brushing it with ghee or oil to achieve a golden-brown, crispy texture.

2. Filling: Place the marinated and cooked meat or vegetables in the centre of the paratha, leaving some space at the edges.

3. Sauces: Drizzle mint chutney, tamarind chutney, or spicy mayonnaise over the filling, adding a burst of flavour.

4. Onions and Lemon: Sprinkle finely chopped onions and squeeze fresh lemon juice for added zing and crunch.

5. Roll and Wrap: Gently fold the sides of the paratha over the filling and roll it tightly from one end to create a neat and compact wrap.

Street vendors master this process by swiftly assembling rolls with precision, ensuring each element is distributed evenly. They skillfully wrap the roll in butter paper or foil, keeping it intact for easy handling. The art of achieving a perfect balance of flavours and textures in a portable format contributes to the immense popularity of Kathi rolls as a beloved street food delight.

Recipe For A Chicken Kathi Roll

                                             Video Credits: Your Food Lab/YouTube


For the Chicken:

500 grammes of boneless chicken, thinly sliced or cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons of yoghurt

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon of coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to your spice preference)

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons of oil

For the Paratha:

2 cups all-purpose flour (maida)

1 tablespoon oil or ghee

Salt to taste

Water, as needed

Other Ingredients:

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (optional, for extra spice)

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons of mint chutney

2 tablespoons of tamarind chutney

2 tablespoons oil or ghee for cooking the parathas and assembling the rolls


Marinate the Chicken:

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken with yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, red chilli powder, lemon juice, and salt. Mix well, ensuring the chicken is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Prepare the Parathas:

In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose flour, oil or ghee, and salt. Gradually add water and knead until you get a smooth and soft dough. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 15–20 minutes.

Divide the dough into equal-sized balls. Roll each ball into a thin circle using a rolling pin and some flour to prevent sticking.

Heat a tawa or flat griddle over medium heat. Place the rolled paratha on the hot tawa and cook on both sides until golden brown, brushing some oil or ghee on each side. Keep the parathas warm and covered with a cloth to maintain their softness.

Cook the Chicken:

In a pan or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the marinated chicken and cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is tender, juicy, and fully cooked. Adjust salt and spices according to your taste.

Assemble the Kathi Roll:

Take a warm paratha and place it on a clean surface.

Spread a layer of mint chutney and tamarind chutney on the paratha.

Add a portion of the cooked chicken to the centre.

Sprinkle some thinly sliced onions, chopped green chillies (if using), and fresh coriander leaves over the chicken.

Roll and Serve:

Carefully roll the paratha tightly to form a wrap, securing the filling inside.

If desired, wrap the roll in butter paper or foil to hold its shape and make it easier to eat on the go.

Serve the Chicken Kathi Roll hot with extra chutneys or a side of salad for a delicious and satisfying street food experience.