With proper marketing, Kati Rolls could be the next big thing. Think of them as Indian burritos, with warm paratha bread standing in for the tortilla, rolled up around aromatic chicken (and mutton on weekends) with grilled onion and bell peppers filling it out. At this small, 2-month-old spin-off of Aminia of Kolkata, authentic Mughlai-style Indian food is presented by Shariq Ali in the tradition of his family’s original flagship restaurant, which has been open in Calcutta since 1929. According to Ali, his great-grandfather was a pioneer of Mughlai food, which tends to rely more on subtle flavoring and less on incendiary spice. A popular street food in Calcutta, Kati Rolls—on the menu here as Aminia Rolls ($2.50-$3.50)—are perfect for a quick bite, instead of let’s say, that slice of pizza or gyro, and works well for a one-handed, satisfying lunch while traversing the expressway.
In Manhattan, two Kati Roll Company stores feed them to the masses, who line up every day, and they’re not as good as at Aminia, where the paratha flatbread is constantly being baked. When it’s time to construct the rolls, the bread is slathered with an egg wash and baked anew. The chicken, along with luscious kebabs, are cooked in portable tandoor ovens right in front of you at the counter. Kati refers to the long bamboo sticks (brought over from Calcutta) the meat is cooked on. Spices are integral to the preparation and here they take the time to grind the cumin and coriander. The rolls are not spicy, with maybe just a hint of pepper, so they make for an accessible gateway food for the uninitiated. The pleasant four-table spot has pictures of Indian movie stars and artists, all identified with Calcutta, a cultural capital.
In order to insure the food would be as authentic as possible, Ali invited his uncle, Nadim Amin, to come to Long Island for a month and train the cooks who were unfamiliar with this particular cuisine. Meat and rice dishes are slow cooked, often steamed, in a process called “dum.” Chicken Reshmi Kabab ($6), long marinated in cream and cashew nut paste, has a complex flavor. Chicken Kastoori ($6) is more boldly seasoned, adding ground cardamom and fenugreek to the mix, producing an exotic eye-opener. Curries include Chicken Chap ($6) and Bhuna Gosht—long-cooked goat meat ($7), both come in dark onion gravy and fall apart tender. Spicy and infused with so many flavors, Chicken Biryani ($6) cooked with the “dum” steaming method, is excellent, as are hot Garlic Naan ($2) and plain Naan ($1), good for digging up rice. A special of Nehari ($8), braised lamb shank marinated for 24 hours in 26 different spices, is spectacular and ridiculously priced. Mutton for kebabs and Kati Rolls is available weekends.
One day there could be Kati-rias or Kati Bells all over the place, and you’ll say you read it here first.
Aminia of Calcutta
253 S. Broadway, Hicksville
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