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No, no one in Kolkata calls them ‘kathi rolls.’ Not even, if you are eating them at Hot Kathi Rolls in Kolkata’s Park Street!
I grew up on an egg roll every evening after school. My mom would leave Rs 1.50 with me to go buy one at the local neighbourhood shop before I went to play cricket. I am talking of the later Gavaskar years and not the Dhoni era.
I would go to the roll shop, clutching my precious coins. Wait for the roll wala to open at 4.30 pm, fry the paratha, beat an egg on it, then add in raw onions and cucumber and loads of red and yellow sauce or tomato and chilli as one thought then.
The more expensive (Rs 2 then) mutton rolls, made with kosha mangsho (thick curried mutton) was a rare treat indulged in if I could rustle up some extra pennies. It was the ultimate experience then.
Later, when I was in high school, I went to Nizam’s where rolls were invented, as I first read in Vir Sanghvi’s Rude Food. This story is now written on the grimy Nizam menu cards too.
I had a khiri roll (made with cow’s udders) and mutton rolls that night. The Bengali bhalo chhele (good boy’s) version of living on the wild side.
Well this was roll epiphany for me. The meats were dry though juicy and the kababs were not the sloppy curried meat used in suburban Kolkata roll shops. No sauces were added. The parathas were thin and crisp unlike the chubby ones in my para (neighbourhood). The onions were fried. No cucumbers!
That’s when I realized that the rolls sold in the suburban Kolkata roll shops run by local Hindus was very different from that sold in the Muslim run Moghlai restaurants of central Kolkata.
Now, when I return to Kolkata, I always make a pilgrimage to Nizam’s for a beef roll. That’s how this story had started after all.
What’s your favourite roll joint in Kolkata?
Follow him @Finelychopped
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.