Hot chunks of grilled chicken, mixed with fried onions, and chili sauce and packed into a soft paratha, with an inlaid coating of egg—that is definitely my favorite snack of the evening. Simply writing about an egg chicken roll has got my gastronomical juices flowing. Rolls are to Kolkata what croissants are to the French or burgers are for the Americans. There are uncountable places in Kolkata that sell rolls—from seedy street shops to large establishments. Every roll shop has its unique way of preparing rolls. They come in various sizes, coating(soft roti, pita bread, paratha), and types (egg roll, paneer roll, chicken roll, mutton roll, tikia roll).
In Kolkata, there are also famously called kati rolls, which get their name from their place of origin. Kati rolls have skewered kebabs inside parathas and their preparation has undergone many stages of evolution. The word kati means ‘stick’ and the name describes the preparation process where the meat is skewered with sticks and then cooked. While the preparations of mutton roll, beef roll, and paneer roll are no different than their namesakes with their chunks as the fillings, tikia roll, and bheja fry rolls are slightly different. Tikia rolls have the meat in keema or shredded form and marinated in spices while bheja fry rolls (bheja meaning brain in Hindi) have the shredded brain meat of cows or goats.
Let us explore some of the places in Kolkata with the most mouth-watering rolls:
I. Zeeshan Mughlai Restaurant, Park Circus
Zeeshan has been serving delicious Mughlai food in Kolkata for over two decades now. You will not hear about it because of their rolls now because they have branched into so many dishes but twenty years ago, their humble beginnings were from a small roll shop. Even though they are a huge name in the food industry now, their rolls are still as tasty as they used to be during their initial days. Their rolls are famous for their parathas. They make these flaky, crisp parathas with a hint of sweetness. It’s a wonderful complement to their spicy, hot stuffing and chicken.
II. Kusum Rolls, Park Street
I have the fondest memories associated with Kusum kati Rolls in Park Street. Every Saturday, for two years, I used to finish my German classes from Max Mueller Bhavan, come out, and without fail, have an egg-chicken roll from Kusum Rolls. Kati rolls have such widespread popularity that they cannot be classified as one food genre—they can be a snack, a meal on the go, or even a celebratory dish. At Kusum rolls, the parathas are crispy and the kebabs well-cooked.
III. Nizam’s, New Market Area
As I mentioned before, in Kolkata, one can find roll shops in every nook and cranny but the most famous one is undoubted, Nizam’s. Founded in 1932, they are the original creators of the kebab roll scene. The kebabs are well-cooked and served inside a laccha paratha without any sauce. Nizam’s was also famous for its beef roll but it has been discontinued over the years. If you are looking to whet your appetite, with some beef rolls, close to Nizam’s is this wonderful restaurant called UP Bihar.
IV. Campari, Garihat
Campari is the shining lighthouse among roll shops in the shopper’s paradise, Garihat. They are famous for their chicken roll. They make a Bangali-style roll, where the roll has a lighter and thinner paratha, with chicken that is less spicy. It is a light roll that is not so heavy on the stomach.
V. Old Veselka, Jadavpur
This is the least popular roll joint among all the ones mentioned before but it is an underrated gem. Although they are primarily a seafood joint, they make the most beautiful, unorthodox rolls. They have squid rolls and octopus rolls apart from the usual ones. My personal favorite is the Chicken Mayo Salsa Roll, which is Lebanese-style chicken, loaded with mayo and vegetables and wrapped in a thin rumali roti. It will bring out the stomach-gasms for sure.