Spiced chicken, wrapped in an egg soaked flatbread; this is one of the best Kolkatta street vendor snacks. These are variously known as kathi rolls, kathi kebabs, or Kolkatta kebabs.
After a hard day at school, I would stop at the local fast food shop – McDonalds had yet to reach Australia – and have a Chiko roll and a can of Coke. In his day, my father would stop at a street food vendor and have a kathi roll and nimbu pani. Having eaten a kathi roll, all I can say is progress isn’t what it is cracked up to be.
This recipe comes from our family’s time in what was then called Calcutta. Kathi rolls were my father and his young sister’s secret delights. Their mother did not approve of eating food from street vendors, with just a few exceptions. These exceptions were determined by her opinion of their cleanliness and freshness and their ability to provide things her cooks couldn’t, such as specialist desserts. You can imagine there weren’t that many exceptions.
Once my grandmother learnt of my father and his sister’s addiction to kathi rolls, the story has it she collected her parasol, her current cook, my father and aunt, then marched off to visit the street vendor. She extracted the recipe from the poor man, under some duress I imagine, then instructed her cook to produce these rolls on demand when the young family came home from school.
She was not going to have her offspring exposed to the dangers of street food, nor did she want it mentioned at the Writers Club that her children had to associate with natives and eat at common street vendors. This Writers Club was a building in Calcutta and was the home of the British administration – Delhi was in its infancy at this time.
The story continues when she discovered that not only did my father and his sister adore these rolls, but so did his young brother and his three older brothers. My grandfather then admitted to often having them himself. In fact, she was the only person in the family who didn’t eat them. She maintained that it was common food and she never ate a kathi roll in her life, or so she said.
These became a regular afternoon snack and weekend lunch.
You have to careful cooking these to not make them oily. The recipe below uses as little oil as possible to cook the dish. The drier the filling, the better.
A common variation to this chicken roll uses paneer instead. The technique and preparation is nearly identical, and is described in our paneer roti roll recipe.
for the roti
- 1 tbsp jaggery grated
- 200 ml water warmed
- 500 g whole wheat flour (atta flour)
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp ghee softened
for the filling
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 6 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 dried red chilli
- 200 g tomatoes finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 30 g ginger finely chopped
- 1 tbsp green chilli seeds removed and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped
- 4 chicken breast fillets skin removed and diced into 1cm pieces
- ½ tsp salt
- 30 g ginger finely shredded
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
- 8 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 red onion finely sliced
Dissolve the jaggery in the water, set aside.
Mix the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the ghee. Start adding the warm water and jaggery and knead in the bowl to form a soft, smooth dough. The longer you knead the dough the softer the roti will be. Divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Cover and set aside to rest for half an hour.
Toast and grind the coriander seeds and dried chilli.
Heat the ghee in a pan over a high heat. Add the garlic and fry until it just starts to colour,then add the ground coriander and chilli. Next, add the tomatoes and stir well. Turn down the heat and fry for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes reduce down to a pulp.
Add the turmeric, chopped ginger, green chilli, half the coriander leaves to the tomato mix and stir well. Continue cooking for a few minutes more. Increase the heat and add the chicken pieces to the pan. Season with the salt and fry, stirring for about 10 minutes until the chicken has cooked through.
Once the chicken has cooked, add the shredded ginger, the remaining coriander leaves and the garam masala. Stir well and keep warm over a low heat while you finish preparing each roll.
Roll each of the roti balls into a small, thin flat disk.
Set a small frying pan over a medium heat and add a little oil. Pour two tablespoons of lightly beaten egg into the pan, cook for a moment, stirring, then place a roti on top, cook for a minute to set the egg before turning it over to cook through.
Once roti is cooked, put it on a plate, spoon some of the chicken mix down the centre. Add some of the sliced red onions and roll the roti over the filling. Wrap each roll in aluminium foil to keep them warm and intact. Repeat with the remaining rotis and serve.