Friday, September 12, 2008

Nizams' Roll

I am sure Calcuttans of any age will still remember with nostalgia our once famous “Mughlai Paratha”! There is no historical record whether Mughal Emperor Babur or his last known descendent Bahadur Sha had ever tasted this heavenly delight. Their souls must surely be repenting if they didn’t!

Special dough made of flour, water, yeast and oil is stretched thin like a big saucer; a raw egg is then splattered at the centre, a dash of cooked minced meat, some chopped raw onion, green chili and salt added, and then the ends folded to make it to an eight inch square shape which is then fried to a crispy brown color to give the final shape to a Mughlai Paratha! There are, however, too many ifs and buts and I am sure nobody will be trying my recipe.
There used to be a number of local joints but Anadi’s Cabin at Esplanade was renowned to be one of the best. Chowringhee Restaurant, another famous joint, was right next door but we had unquestioning faith in Anadi. Mughlai Paratha with Kasha Mangsho (Bhuna Ghost or Stir fried mutton are only translation but can not match the taste!) at Anadi’s Cabin used to be our cherished heavenly meal!

Unfortunately the process of making Mughlai parathas was rather elaborate, requiring special skills and it could not even be partly prepared in advance. Also it was not possible to eat it while walking. Culinary experts in Calcutta were searching for something which could be equally tasty but could be made in a jiffy and could be eaten while on the move.

The Roll, which could be a fusion cuisine, was thus born to give hot dogs, burgers, and wraps a run for their money.

Succulent pieces of mutton or chicken are marinated for hours in tandoori spices, salt, yogurt, grated green papaya, skewered in thin bamboo or metal skewers and then roasted over a charcoal fire. The wrap is from dough made of flour, water. yeast and plenty of oil. Once the dough gains a certain elasticity it is flattened into the shape of a pan cake and then shallow fried on a flat griddle to make the outer surface slightly crisp. The roasted meat is then lightly fried on the griddle and rolled into the wrap with chopped raw onion, green chili, lemon juice, tomato-chili sauce and rock salt. The whole thing is then wrapped with paper and sealed at one end so that it can be eaten without dirtying your hands. The taste is simply heavenly!

Besides famous joints like “Begam”, “Badsha”, “Bedwin” and “Bawarchi” there are lots of roadside mobile eateries, operating only during evening, which are specialized in different type of rolls like mutton roll, chicken roll, egg roll and their combinations, adding to the gastronomical delight to the Calcuttans.

Though experts may differ, I feel Nizams in Esplanade is one of the best joints for rolls in Calcutta and could also be the pioneer. In the sixties they used to call it “Kati Roll” since the skewers were made of thin bamboo sticks (Kati in Bengali).

I was very fond of Nizams’ rolls for their heavenly taste. In mid-seventies I used to come to Calcutta almost every month and frequented Nizams along with my friend Debu (D. M. Mitra from L&T). We would go for some English movie either in Metro or Light House carrying ”to go” packs from Nizams and open the packs as soon as the lights were dimmed to fill the enter surroundings with the special aroma of Nizams’ roll. The collective sigh of despair “Oh! Nizams’ rolls” from the rest of the deprived audience used to add to their awesome taste!

That day, we were a little late for a movie and decided to visit Nizams after the show was over. The place was quite crowded but we could locate some vacant chairs near a corner where one guy was already munching a roll with his eyes shut with satisfaction. We quickly ordered two mutton rolls and headed for the vacant chairs.
“Are these chairs vacant?” Debu asked the guy very politely
Most reluctantly he opened his eyes and gestured in the affirmative.
Service in Nizams was extremely fast and we got our rolls nearly as soon as we sat down.
We just managed our first bite when that guy opened his eyes once again and asked
“What type of rolls did you order?”
“Mutton rolls” Debu answered innocently
“Are you really sure? I don’t think they are serving you mutton at that price. It must be beef” the guy stated like a “Mr. Know-It-All” .
Not that we were much bothered about having beef, but we could suspect that he was up to something.
“What type of roll have you ordered?” Debu asked him still sounding innocent.
“I did not take any risk and have ordered Chicken roll” boasted the guy.
It became clear that he was trying to spoil our fun and we decided to retaliate. As usual Debu outsourced the dirty job to me.
“I do not think a reputed joint like Nizams will ever serve beef instead of mutton for fear of communal backlash. Though we don’t mind even if it is beef. It could also be buffalo meat” I said nonchalantly while taking a bite of my roll.
“Why buffalo meat?” the guy asked with surprise, pausing in mid-bite.
“If they serve buffalo meat there will not be any religious backlash. Moreover buffalos are healthier so the quality of meat is excellent.” I explained like an expert.
The guy seemed to be convinced with my argument but was visibly disappointed that his initial move to spoil our fun had failed.
“By the way are you sure you are having a Chicken roll” I asked him with a tone of deliberate suspicion.
“What else could it be?” the guy replied with a hint of suspicion and stopped half way from taking his bite.
“I read some report that population of Cheel (Perrier Kites) near the trash dumping yards are dwindling. People are poaching them and selling them to railway caterings and restaurants. I was told they taste exactly like chicken and nobody could find the difference” I replied casting a doubtful look at the roll he was holding.
The guy made a face as if he was abut to throw up, gave me a dirty look, dropped the partially eaten roll on his plate and ran for the wash basin. We did see him stopping briefly to settle his bill on his way out.
Debu and I were very hungry and went on to order a second round of “mutton rolls”.


prat said...

offf...mama, khabarer description pore to Surat er katha mone pore gelo...amra ekta muslim patti te jetam Kabab r Tanduri khawar, se ja banato na..jiv e jol ese gelo


biplab said...

prat, wonderful! at least i could tickle your test bud and brought in nostalgic feelings!

Milan Acharya said...

- The 6th para -
"Succulent pieces of mutton or chicken .........taste is simply heavenly!"
- I can almost feel it - smell it - taste it.
With me, still in early stages of having non veg food, these mutton and chicken rolls are definitely going to be on my menu card the next time I visit Kolkata.
If somebody is experiencing loss of appetite - go ahead - read this - and you will be cured for life.

biplab said...

milan, now you understand how much you have missed remaining strict veg so long! anyway, now is the time to make up. we will visit Nizams together next time you visit kolkata

Unknown said...

Uncle, I have been deprived of the pleasure to enjoy Nizam's chicken roll during my last couple of visits to Calcutta- not for the fear of Cheel meat hehe - but for the scare of bird flu, which I have come to believe times itself just right around my visits to this wonderful city.. But this certainly reminds of a similar place called 'BadeMiya' a small road side joint in the Bombay fort area ..great kababs

I bet you, that guy from your post must have never had a chicken roll ever again in his life..

biplab said...

Dear shisher, as a connoisseur of mughlai cuisine i could only suggest that kababs and briyanis are best made with red meat i.e. beef or mutton and definitely not with chicken with or without BF. We were sure that nizams will never serve cheel meat but we just wanted to teach that guy a lesson. but probably it became little too much for which (now)i regret.

Milan Acharya said...

hello unclejee, NO NEW POSTS - we are waiting for a new one..

biplab said...

milan, i was busy doing nothing. i will try to post by this weekend

jdrhere said...

May we hope to wake up on 'Sasthi" morning with the arrival of a new post? :)

biplab said...

jdrhere, Thank God! instead of first day at least i could do it on the last day!must be a feat for a lazy bone!

Sumit Surai said...

Great post! I was searching for some posts on Anadi's Cabin and Google gave me this link.
First I would like to confirm that yes Nizam actually invented roll. As far as I have read they used to sell kebab and paratha and for their British customers who were not comfortable tearing the paratha and all, they started wrapping the whole thing with paper.
Also it will be great if you can give me some information about Anadi as you have visited the place repeatedly. I visited this place at a very young age and don't quite remember what I ate at that time. Only today I went back there. The Mughlai Paratha that I was served (I ordered for the special mughlai) had only egg and onions inside the paratha and no keema or masala. I want to know is this how Anadi prepares Mughlai Paratha always or maybe I was plain unlucky today. Thank you again for a great post :)

biplab said...

Sumit, Nice to hear about the invention of rolls by Nizam! I used to visit Nizam mostly in mid-seventies and to the best of my knowledge they use to make Mughlai paratha only with egg, onion and a little bit of beet roots. May be a sprinkle of keema (minced meat) for the special ones!Please search website of "Anadi's Cabin for more details