The idea behind the Eat Like a Bong series was simply to hone my skills in cooking Bengali food and in the process bringing to you indispensable recipes that a Bong can’t do without. But then I realised that we were already in the Pujo month so I decided to pep it up a little by including Pujo favourites as well. Now, I’m not very good at deep-frying (or maybe I am? I don’t really know. I haven’t deep-fried much!), so I was trying to think of something that did not require a lot of oil but tasted equally divine…something that captures the essence of Calcutta street food. And then I met Monica, a Mexican girl in her mid-twenties, who has come down all the way from her homeland to Calcutta for an internship at a reputed hotel here. We struck up random conversations with her and obviously since any conversation involves food, we ended up asking her what her favourite food in Calcutta was. And bang came the answer, “Chicken Rolls”!(Is it because it is so drastically similar to their tortilla wraps?) “They are so cheap. Neither very hot, nor very sweet. They have the perfect balance of flavours and are so easy to have on the go,” said Monica. And she was spot on. The essence of the vibrant Calcutta street food culture that I was trying to find was so clearly explained by a foreigner to my city.
That is probably the charm of chicken rolls. Once you have it, your life changes completely. The Kaathi Rolls found in Delhi fall flat in front of the quintessential chicken rolls that is doled out to us at a price of anything between 25-50 bucks. I love the versions they make at Nizam’s, Campari and Ballygunge Dhaba. Even during Pujo, food stalls that are littered all around the city come armed with gazillions of paratha dough and chicken kebabs because they can bet their lives that rolls are going to be the hottest-selling item. Really, you can’t go out pandal-hopping and return home without a bite of the ever-popular roll. Some are greasy, dripping with oil, sauce smearing out from the top, but you have it nonetheless. Pujo is not Pujo without Chicken Rolls! So if you are far away from Calcutta this Pujo season, trust me, this is the one dish you would want to make to get a feel of the city!
Kolkata Chicken Roll
Makes 6 rolls
Chicken, boneless and cut into bite-size pieces: 500 gm
Onions, sliced thinly: 3
Capsicum, sliced thinly: 2
Mustard oil: 2-3 tbsp
Lime juice: Of 2 limes
Chat masala: As required
Green chillies, sliced finely: 6-7
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Yoghurt, preferable hung: 2 tbsp
Lime juice: Of 1 lime
Turmeric powder: 3/4 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tsp
Kashmiri Red Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Garam masala: 1/2 tsp
Salt, to taste
Flour: 350 gm
Vegetable oil: 3 tbsp + for frying
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Water, as required
1. Marinade the chicken pieces with the items mentioned under marination for 2-3 hours at least of overnight for best results. (I always marinade my protein overnight)
2. Keep the paratha dough ready before you start with the filling. Add the oil to the flour bit and bit till it becomes crumbly. Now add water gradually and knead into a soft dough. Add salt and continue to knead till soft and smooth. With the help of your palms shape into 6-7 round balls and set aside, covered.
3. In a non-stick kadhai/pan, heat oil and add the onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes till they become translucent. Add capsicum and cook for another 5 minutes till semi-soft but not mushy. Sprinkle some salt on it if you want to. Set aside on a plate lined with kitchen towel/tissue.
4. In the same pan, add more oil if needed and add the chicken pieces. You may choose to extract just the pieces from the marinade and add them as it will dry up faster. But I add the marinade along with it as it gives more flavour. Cook covered on medium high heat for 7-10 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 5 minutes till the chicken dries up. Make sure to stir from time to time to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
5. As your chicken is cooking, make the parathas. On a floured surface, roll out your dough into round flatbread like structures. On a hot tawa heat, pour a little oil and gently place the paratha. Cook for 2-3 minutes and flip to the other side. As you do this, sprinkle drops of oil all around it to allow the edges to crisp up but let the middle stay soft. Browning the entire paratha would mean that it would fall apart while you’re trying to roll it.
6. Now keep the cooked paratha on a plate, line 7-8 chicken pieces longitudinally a little bit away from the centre and sprinkle the fried onion capsicum. Give a good squeeze of lime, sprinkle some chopped green chillies and chat masala. Roll the paratha gently and wrap it with a tissue or parchment. Serve hot with extra lime wedges and green chillies.
Eat Like a Bong: Day 7
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