To sample the best kathi rolls in India, Kolkata should undoubtedly be your initial stop. After all, the kathi roll was invented there, and it's grown to be one of the most popular street foods in the city. The first roll came out of the kitchen of Nizam's restaurant, where it started out as a simple meat kebab (cooked in charcoal on an iron skewer) wrapped in an egg-covered paratha (Indian flatbread). According to some, the meat wasn't the mutton it was claimed to be, but instead controversial beef disguised in a roll. It wasn't even called a kathi roll, but rather referred to as a Nizam's roll.
Eventually, the iron rods used in roasting the meat were apparently replaced with cheaper bamboo sticks (kathi in Bengali), giving rise to the name kathi roll. These rolls have since evolved to have various fillings and be made with different breads. They're even available internationally.
Each shop makes the rolls in its own style. There are so many varieties!... Here's where you can get the best of them in India.
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The Original Kathi Rolls: Nizam's
Legendary Nizam's, where the kathi roll was invented, was founded in 1932 and has a lot of nostalgia associated with it. Nizam's dominated the market with its rolls up until the 1970s, by which time numerous vendors had copied the concept and commenced selling them all over the city. The restaurant was forced to close for more than two years in 2003 due to staff union issues. Many believe it has never recovered and no longer makes the best kathi rolls in Kolkata. However, there are those that say kathi rolls are all about the paratha — and it's impossible to find a replica of the succulent paratha used by Nizam's in their rolls anywhere else. Regardless, the kathi rolls at Nizam's are a must-try! Go there after shopping at New Market.
- Address: 24 Hogg Street, New Market, Kolkata.
- Opening Hours: 11.30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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Rolls Made with Deep Fried Paratha: Hot Kathi Roll
This longstanding hole-in-the-wall place at the entrance to iconic Park Street has been serving up kathi rolls in Kolkata for decades. Almost always busy, it's popular with students and office workers alike. The parathas are perfectly deep fried in oil, making them particularly juicy and crunchy. Don't think about your cholesterol when eating these kathi rolls! The classic chicken rolls are popular. There's no seating, so takeout only.
- Address: 1B Park Estate (junction of Park Street and Chowringhee Road, close to the Asiatic Society), Park Street, Kolkata.
- Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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Rolls with Innovative Fillings: Kusum Rolls
While Nizam's may have introduced the kathi roll to Kolkata, Kusum Rolls took it to the next level. Kusum is the other renowned place to get kathi rolls on Kolkata's Park Street, and it offers some unusual fillings and combinations. Think cheese rolls, liver rolls, and mayonnaise rolls. Vegetable rolls are available as well. However, it's the egg chicken rolls that are among the most sought after.
- Address: 21 Karnani Mansion (in the lane near the Park Hotel), Park Street, Kolkata.
- Opening Hours: Noon to 11.30 p.m.
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Rolls Without Added Sauce: Badshah Bar and Restaurant
Another really old Kolkata restaurant, Badshah serves up more than just kathi rolls and it gives decent competition to Nizam's in the New Market area. It's air-conditioned, while Nizam's isn't, and has alcohol as well. The defining thing about Badshah's kathi rolls is that they're made without sauce (it's provided separately), which is great for those who prefer them that way. The parathas aren't oily and the meat is of good quality too. Try the mutton kathi rolls, with an extra squeeze of lime.
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- Address: 5 Lindsay Street, New Market, Kolkata.
- Opening Hours: 10 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.
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Tandoori Kathi Rolls: Campari
Conveniently located in the heart of south Kolkata's shopping district, Campari's kathi rolls stand out because the meat is marinated and cooked in a tandoor. There are no complaints about the quality decreasing over the years either. Their menu isn't very extensive (for example, you won't find a simple egg roll on it) but the tandoori fish rolls are something extraordinary and you won't get them anywhere else in Kolkata. Alternatively, try the Campari special chicken or mutton rolls. Other types of Bengali fast food, such as fish fry, are served as well. Campari is only open in the evenings for snacks. Unfortunately, there are no seats, but you can stand and eat at a table if you don't want takeout.
- Address: 155 B, Rash Behari Avenue (near Bandhan Bank), Gariahat, Kolkata.
- Opening Hours: 4 p.m to 9 p.m. Closed Sundays.
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Rolls Made with Laccha Paratha: Zeeshan
What began as a small roadside shop selling kathi rolls has now expanded into a fully-fledged, air-conditioned Mughlai restaurant spread over two floors and with branches across the city. Zeeshan's kathi roll menu is comprehensive, and includes brain and brain fry rolls (if you like that kind of thing). What's special about Zeeshan's rolls is that they're made with laccha paratha. This type of paratha is flaky with multiple ringed layers. Yum!
- Address: 17 Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Park Circus, Kolkata.
- Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight.
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Although their kathi rolls are nothing like the ones in Kolkata, many will argue that Khan Chacha makes the best non-vegetarian kathi rolls in Delhi. They've been serving them up since 1972, and have even been visited by celebrities and featured on TV, so they must be doing it right! Thin and soft roomali roti, rather than the thicker paratha, is used in their rolls. The grilled kebab meat comes in three types — tikka (marinated large pieces), seekh (minced), and kakori (minced with kidney fat and spices) — and it's wrapped up in the roti. Khan Chacha has many branches across Delhi but the outlet in posh Khan Market is a favorite.
- Address: 50 Khan Market, New Delhi.
- Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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In Delhi and craving the taste of an authentic Kolkata kathi roll? Award-winning Nizam's Kathi Kabab is the place to go! This clean and comfortable restaurant has nearly 20 types of kathi rolls to choose from, including chicken, mutton, egg, and vegetarian. If you're concerned about your weight or your heart, there's an option to replace oily paratha with healthier roomali roti. Do note that this Nizam's is not connected to Nizam's in Kolkata in any way.
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- Address: H5, 6 Plaza Building, Connaught Place, New Delhi.
- Opening Hours: 11.30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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Rolls with Inventive Sauces: Kathi Kebab Roll
Mumbai has its own type of roll called the frankie. However, there are a few places where you can get kathi rolls. Kathi Kebab Roll is one of them. Their rolls come with a twist, in the form of some unique in-house sauces! According to the owner, although he learned how to make authentic kathi rolls from Nizam's in Kolkata, it was necessary to add the sauces to suit Mumbai's palate. The city's inhabitants love them that way. What kinds of sauces are we talking about? Hummus, barbecue, burnt garlic mayonnaise, Schezwan, mango jalapeno, olive herb, and chocolate. Yes, chocolate! It seems that unconventional customers like to mix chocolate with chicken and even paneer (Indian cottage cheese), because both these combination rolls are on the menu. If your taste is less adventurous, you can opt for a plain Kolkata egg roll or Kolkata chicken roll.
- Address: 1 Bara Building, opposite High Street Phoenix Mall, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai.
- Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 9.30... p.m.
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The kathi roll wasn't created with vegetarians in mind and there are usually limited choices available. However, this isn't the case at Chakum Chukum Calcutta On A Roll in Bangalore. Vegetarians won't feel like they're missing out at this curiously-named diner. The vegetarian section of the menu extends for almost two pages, and is quite creative. Roll fillings include baby corn, potato, spinach, paneer, chickpeas, and mixed vegetables. Carnivores aren't overlooked, with all the usual fillings on offer, plus mutton liver and kidney. The owners are from Kolkata, so you can expect these rolls to have some authenticity. They brought with them generations-old recipes from the Kolkata streets, and the cooks are trained in the art of making traditional kathi rolls. In case you're wondering, Chakum Chukum is the name of a song in a Bengali movie and is also the sound that's made when chomping on delicious food.
- Address: 901/2, 7th Main Road, 4th Cross, HAL 2nd... Stage, off 100 Feet Road, near B.R. Ambedkar College, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Also opposite Sapna Book Mall, 80 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore.
- Opening Hours: 11.30 a.m. to midnight.