Rolls are a commonly-eaten street food in India today, although the names might differ from place to place.
Whenever I would be running late for college or my father would be late for his office meeting, the one thing that we always tended to skip was breakfast. My mother would specially wake up early each morning to ready the mixture for stuffed parathas and while she would be tossing them on the flat griddle, we would be tossing our heads over our clothes and bags. Since the atmosphere was such of rush and hurry, my mother devised an intelligent way to feed us and save time too. She would douse some butter into the paratha and roll it up, giving it a cylindrical shape that can be eaten on-the-go. Well, it actually worked.
I think something similar must have happened when the kebab wallahs started making rolls. Legend has it that Nizams was a pioneer of kathi rolls, who began selling them in the 1930s. The popular kebab eatery in Kolkata was loved by one and all for their luscious meaty kebabs. However, the greasiness which added to the taste of the kebabs, made it difficult to eat on the way. Since a lot of office-goers were usually in hurry and didn’t have time to stand and enjoy the kebabs, Nizams started to see a dip in the footfall of customers. To solve this problem, they came up with the idea of wrapping succulent kebabs in a flaky paratha and rolling it up so that it can be handy.
Another tale traces its origins back to the British era when the colonial officers did not want to dirty their hands for eating the kebabs so the idea of kebabs in a roll was invented. We don’t have clarity on which one is true but what we do know is that the Nizams eatery began shifting to bamboo skewers or kati, from iron ones to meet the surge in demand and that’s how it got it’s name kathi roll. Note: Kathi refers to stick in Bengali.
While it was usually a flaky paratha to stuff the kebabs, there are plenty of newer versions which have come up including wheat parathas, rumali roti etc. In fact, the idea of stuffing meat is also getting replaced by vegetarian alternatives like paneer.
Here are some vegetarian fillings to wrap up your kathi rolls this week.
1. Aloo Kathi Roll
If you’re a vegetarian, you’re bound to like this humble vegetable. Potato is a versatile ingredient that can be spruced up into anything. While Bengalis often pair it with chicken and mutton, this aloo kathi roll is purely vegetarian. Dice the potatoes and toss them in a pan with spices like ginger-garlic paste, onions, coriander, green chillies etc. Load this mixture onto a crispy paratha and roll it up.
2. Paneer Kathi Roll
Just like potatoes, paneer is also a great option to substitute the meaty fillings. Paneer is diced into smaller cubes which are then spruced up with ginger, garlic and chaat masala. Add some cumin powder and chilli paste to the mixture and dunk it into the roll.
3. Vegetable Cheese Kathi Roll
A power-packed kathi roll with the goodness of a variety of vegetables, this one is loaded with capsicum, carrots, onions and tomatoes. Mix the veggies with mayonnaise and a host of sauces to give it a creamy and tangy touch.
4. Paneer Tikka Kathi Roll
This one is slightly different from the paneer kathi roll because of the smoky flavour of paneer tikka. Marinated cubes of paneer are grilled on a tandoor along with roughly chopped capsicum and onions. This is then layered on a paratha and wrapped into a roll.