It is an undisputed fact that the concept of a roll in India, especially in the city of Kolkata stands at the top of the street food food-chain. Among a variety of rolls widely available in the City of Joy, the Kati roll is one of the most popular items. Thus, as always, discussing the origins of this street food item becomes very vital.
The most convenient story about the history of this Kati roll can be traced back to one single restaurant in Kolkata(then Calcutta), that is, Nizam’s. The city of Kolkata was a British stronghold as the European power was gradually displaying its political prowess vis-a-vis the subcontinent. Coming from a different culture, the Englishmen found it difficult to eat the meat kebabs with their bare hands. Keeping in mind this plight of the English, it was Nizam’s who came up with this idea of a Kati roll, rolling the kebabs inside a ‘paratha’( a crispy, soft flatbread) and wrapping it up with paper.
This dish, invented in the first half of the twentieth century was cooked with the help of bamboo or metal skewers, that is, the kebab pieces were stuffed into the bamboo or metal stick(the English translation for the Bengali word ‘kathi’) and placed above the fire. Till date, the Kati roll holds its ground of popularity with Nizam’s in the New Market area of Kolkata still making one of the best Kati rolls in the city. Over the years, the item which was used to please the English ‘baboos’ earlier had gained a wide consumer’s base. Irrespective of economic status, caste, creed, gender, etc. the Kati roll retains its position as the street food ‘queen’ of not only Kolkata but also beyond.