From humble beginnings in Imperial India to The Imperial, India – the kathi roll has traveled far and transcended generations, states, and castes.
Having ordered one at The Imperial Hotel in Delhi recently, which did strike me as a little preposterous, they are street food after all, I figured I should try one right back where they were invented in 1900 at Nizam’s, then a street food stall in Kolkata.
Kolkata, or Calcutta as it was at the time was the home of Imperial India, with lots of the East India company lot, and hangers on, toffing it around but it does sound like some were willing to get stuck into the local cuisine. However, it just wouldn’t do eat with the fingers and subsequently soil their handkerchiefs. And so, the Kathi roll was invented! Wrapping the chicken in a roti or similar, prevented the need for cutlery and enabled the food to easily be eaten by hand, without the grease smearing hands or bits getting stuck under nails.
Wikipedia describes them as an Indian sandwich, or a Mexican burrito equivalent and we all know the Brits are partial to a good sarni. Nizam’s claim that they actually started a social revolution across the city with many people subsequently setting up their own Kathi Roll stalls.
Naturally I will refuse to comment on which I enjoyed the most, or just how many rolls can be purchased at Nizam’s for the same price as one at The Imperial. Nizam’s provides the surroundings of an authentic street food experience, do read between those lines. The Imperial does what it does best and exudes an ambiance reflecting all that was great (I am not saying it was all great, just all the best bits) about the pomp and splendour of the Empirical period; and whilst there one can then round the meal off with one of their delectable creme brulees and a coffee. I often venture there for this treat alone.
However, I will admit to eating the one at The Imperial with my hands. Using a knife and fork just wouldn’t have been right!
Btw, no facts or figures were checked in the writing of this blurb. If any are wrong, please feel free to correct me. It was merely written in remisiscence, with a grumbling tum, waiting for my take away to arrive.