Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Rock On, Rolls!

McDonald's aggressive promotion of their 'wraps' does raise an eyebrow or two for those who have bit into a roll, standing at the thela at the neighbouring market. Their stuff looks suspiciously like that roll you had but a Paneer Salsa Wrap is not what you called it.
After having a roll after ages yesterday, I thought a Roll Call was the order of the day. The kids need to be enlightened about the real thing. And after all, I have traversed cities in search of A Roll to Soothe Your Soul.

Bedwin (Gariahat Crossing, Calcutta) – In the beginning, there was only this one. Meat chunks (we don’t call them tikkas back home) fried before being embraced by a thickish paratha (roomali roti is for wimps) dripping in oil. Cholesterol watchers are advised to avoid this shop and proceed towards Gol Park down the road, as there is a lot of greenery there. And if you are spicily inclined, then there is a green chilly tucked in the paper that holds the roll together.

And then came Kusum (Park Street, Calcutta), tucked in a side lane off Park Street. Their specialty is MORE! For every roll, they have a jumbo option in doubling the ingredients. So, if you have a Double-Egg-Double-Mutton Roll, you will have down three drinks from Olypub (two shops away) just to soak the protein molecules into a digestible mash. You will probably die but what a reason it will be!

Empire Restaurant (Central Street, Bangalore) – Shawarma, as a concept, was introduced to me when I landed up in Bangalore. It is meat cooked on a vertical skewer flavoured with spices and lemon dripping on to it from the top and the meat is shaved off from the edges – to put into a roll / sandwich. Yes, the result is as tasty as it sounds. It is a gooey, dripping, messy kind of roll – the gravy of which threatens to roll down your wrist if you are not careful enough. But no fear! All you have to do is to roll up your sleeves beforehand and slurp off the gravy when it rolls!
Empire was a place that stayed open late into the night (actually, almost early in the morning) so their shawarmas, kababs and bheja fry provided immense succour after drunken binges.

Qureishi’s (G K II, Delhi) – A common occurrence in Delhi is a shop like this one that doubles up as a meat shop in the morning and an open-air kabab joint in the evening. So, that way you know that the meats are all fresh and fantastic. Their range of kababs – when wrapped in roomali roti – become rolls. Specially recommended is their Chicken Malai Tikka Roll, a hefty succulent thing can easily be dinner for a small eater! For big eaters, have two!

Khan Chacha (Khan Market, Delhi) – There seems to be a debate on whether the shop got its name from the market or the market from the shop. But there are no debates on the heavenliness of their wares! And if you do not land up early enough or do not have iron-plated elbows, then you might as well say goodbye to your fond hopes of reaching the counter. The Chicken Tikka Roomali Roll or their Mutton Seekh Roomali Roll are both permanent fixtures on ‘What You Must Eat in Delhi’ lists and the reputation is completely well deserved.

Al Kakori Al Kauser (Chanakyapuri / Vasant Place Market, Delhi) – Okay, their Kakori Roll is the BEST roll I ever had. In fact, it compares pretty well with the best of what Lucknow’s Tunday Kababi has to offer.
Imagine a Delhi winter evening and you stand in the chilly wind waiting for your order. Then the plate is plonked in front of you and pick up the rolls (one in each hand). In the couple of seconds before you bite, the warmth of the meat and roti permeates your palms and into your body. Then you bite and when the warm mutton spreads itself like butter on your tongue, that is the closest you can get to heaven standing on Outer Ring Road!

Could not avoid the Delhi bias. The blokes here marinate and stew the meat here so well that the rolls turn out to be heavenly. For Mumbai-kars who think Frankies are good, what can I say except that you guys probably deserve Raj Thackeray!

Okay, I have never hankered after rolls as I seem to have mentioned in the opening lines. I am more of a rice-and-meat man and as some learned man said, “Life is nothing but a search for the perfect biriyani…”

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