Monday, 4 August 2014

Calcutta style Chicken Rolls

I had set a record for unabashed gluttony at 5. I seemed to have accomplished more at 5 than I did at 25. Apparently, and I swear I have no real memory of this incident, a mother-daughter duo, friends of my family, had come home to spend an evening. I remember them though, they used to come home regularly and we visited them often, until they shifted to Australia a decade ago. Anyway, so they were home and since chicken rolls were the daughter’s weak spot that was what was brought for evening snack. It seems I had been making innumerable trips to the kitchen ever since the rolls arrived and were kept on the kitchen counter. Then one of the helps caught me sneaking out a piece of chicken from one of the rolls in the casserole and the nincompoop didn’t know better than to scream her lungs out. She had the option to merely ask me out politely, but no she screamed.

One slap later, I settled down for a while. Finally the rolls were served. And then, as the family legend goes, there was no stopping me. I stared at the daughter’s plate so hard, much to my mother’s dismay, she finally offered me a bite. At that point I conjured the most surprised look a 5-year-old possibly could and turned to my mother, with that “what should I do now, should I say no, what is the polite thing to do ma?” look. By now the daughter was insisting I take a tiny bite at least (tiny?) and my mother said “go ahead” in that sweetest voice that would usually terrify me. But now I had a bite of chicken roll to think about. If my mother thought that the embarrassment was over for the day, she couldn’t have been further from reality.

Once I had taken a bite of the daughter’s roll, I made my way to the living room upstairs, where the mother was enjoying her egg chicken rolls. My aunt was keeping her company. So, supposedly, I go into the room, pick a spot, park myself and the staring starts again. But the mother wasn’t as sensitive as the daughter you see. She seemed to not notice how a little girl, deprived of the goodness of street food, was staring at her plate. She carried on about her Nigerian daughter-in-law (I am sure that’s what she was talking about, she always did). And as I saw the size of the roll diminishing, I could no longer leave things to chance. So I decided to act. I asked, “How do you like your roll?” She said, “Oh they are wonderful, thank you.” And then I said, just as my mother stepped into the room, “Your daughter shared hers with me.” The incident scarred my mother for life I think. She decided she had failed at raising me well. But come on food is my weakness, has always been, will always be.

Yes I do not remember the incident, but my father will not let me forget it either. At every family get together, every other night at the dinner table, every time new guests come home, every time a conversation shifts to me, my father narrates this incident, in the same set of words, with minor alterations. I think he thinks that narrating this incident is imperative to introducing me to anyone. Yeah, it’s embarrassing, and I can’t begin to imagine what a thrashing I must have received that night, but I have learnt to laugh along. It’s boring now, hearing it over and over again. But dad seems to enjoy it so much, I don’t mind.

Yes rolls are my weak spot too. As a child my mother supervised everything I ate and she didn’t allow me the indulgence of street food as long as she could. So, I was for a long time only an onlooker while everyone around me feasted on that street-food wonder that is my city’s pride, but when I started eating rolls there was no looking back. Ah those juicy, spice morsels of meat wrapped in a crispy paratha. I do not like sauce in my rolls, just lots chilies and lime juice. And yes I like the paratha crisp mostly, and my rolls well endowed, lots of meat that is. 

I live in New Alipore in South Calcutta, and  for the longest time a majority of the residents of the area’s M, N, O, P blocks (quite a large area, I tell you) swore by the rolls from Mayuri roll centre, which went by the name of Rabi Da’r Roll. The original owner of Mayuri is no more, and in recent years Mayuri is no longer the same, but to me talking about rolls would always invoke memories of Rabi Da’r roll. Yes I love the legendary Nizam rolls, and there are a few other places in the city that make great rolls, but when I tried making chicken rolls at home, my inspiration was Mayuri, of course the Mayuri of yesteryears.

(makes 4-5 rolls)

For the filling
Boneless chicken cut into 2 inch cubes – 500 g
Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
Garlic paste – 3/4 tbsp
Juice on 1 small onion (grate the onion and squeeze out the juice really)
Coarsely ground black pepper – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Garam Masala Powder – ½ tsp
Roasted cumin powder – 1 tsp
Roasted coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp (or more if you want heat)
Vegetable oil – 2-3 tbsp

For the paratha
Flour (Maida) – 300 g 
Vegetable oil – 4 tbsp
Water as required 
Salt to taste 
Sugar - 1/2 tsp 

Other ingredients
Thin sliced onions – 2 large
Finely chopped green chilies
Lime wedges
Salt and pepper



Marinate the chicken with all the other ingredients listed under “For the filling” except the oil, for 3-4 hours.  

Heat oil in a pan and toss in the marinated chicken pieces.

Fry until chicken is tender and all the juices dry up, and oil separates.

In a bowl add lime juice, salt and pepper to the sliced onions and green chilies and keep aside.

In the mean time knead soft dough with the flour, oil and water. Roll out into thin, round disks. Shallow fry the parathas on a hot griddle or tawa. Actually, first bake the paranthas on both sides, and then spoon in oil, little by little, just enogh to give the parathas a crispy skin. We don't want the parathas to be too greasy.

You have to work fast here, actually. While the paratha is piping hot, line the chicken pieces a little off the centre of the parathas, top it with the onions and green chilies, add a squeeze of lime if you want to and roll them up.

Wrap one end of the roll in tissue or butter paper, and tuck the open ends into the hollow of the roll. This is necessary to keep the chicken pieces from tumbling down.

Serve on the go. Rolls need to be piping hot.



  1. What a yummylicious and fun post!

  2. I agree. This is a fun post.

  3. i agree with Sharmi, its very funny and definitely am salivating after reading it :-)

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