“Always keep some whipped butter next to the sink,” Aunty Bhupinder tells me as I lament over my dry hands after my move to Toronto. “Once you’re done with cooking,” she continues, “wash your hands and smear a little bit of whipped butter all over them.” Following the advice of someone I love like a grandmother, I slather some whipped butter on my hands. But in vain. Aunty Bhupinder’s hands are soft; like cake batter before it goes into the oven. No amount of whipped butter will soften mine up like hers.
As school-going children in Nairobi, while our parents were traveling, we would stay with Aunty Bhupinder and her husband. Upon our request, every night she would make us parathas and dal, with her mother’s secret mix of garam masala. The same garam masala she still brings back from Delhi for me every year, even though her mother is no longer with us. Our cook would come every night, lovingly, to ask if we wanted him to prepare us a meat-based dish; but we only wanted Aunty Bhupinder’s vegetarian food. Just before dinner we’d peek into her prayer room and watch her kneeling next to the Guru Grant Sahib, head covered in a chiffon dupatta, wondering when she’d be down in the kitchen to spoil us and prepare the flaky parathas and dal tempered with spiced butter.
It is these same hands which I have seen rolling dough for a paratha since I was a child. On each wrist she wears a thick golden bangle, with two elephant heads joining each bracelet together, and in her ears are diamond studs. Her hair is pinned back neatly in a bun, like a swiss roll sliced thin. A rust-hued lipstick, her eyes deep set and beautiful, her eyelashes glossy and long; belying her age.
As I sit on the table in her white kitchen in Washington DC, I watch Aunty Bhupinder as she rolls the dough for the paratha, forming it into a snake-like coil then folding it repeatedly to get those papery thin layers. Every few minutes she turns her head, her hands working the dough and says, “Shayma, please have some orange juice…can I get you some fruit?” I smile and walk towards the fruitbowl in the dining room.
Like a grandmother to me, I know better than to refuse her offer.
She carefully places each paratha, or ‘paronthees’ as she calls them, on a plate, the omelette clinging to it, all unctuous and golden. Specially for me. She knows her kati rolls are among one of my favourite dishes prepared by her.
And on goes the spiced chicken, with a drizzle of jade-green mint chutney; paudinay ki chutney…
Then some fresh onions for crunch; tomatoes (her addition, not traditionally added in Kolkata); green chilies for heat; and fresh cilantro for freshness.
The ultimate street food-snack…rolled up…
Cut in half…
Ready for tucking into…
We end the meal with a cup of tea, into which she adds a pinch of ground whole cardamom powder, brought back from Delhi. I leave Washington DC, always, with a ziploc containing the pistachio green, fragrant powder.
You will need parathas or chapatis. I use store-bought parathas.
For mint chutney- in a blender, puree a bushel of mint with some water, salt and 1 green chili. Mix this with some yoghurt for paudinay ki chutney, which is what we use for the kati roll.
4 chicken thighs or legs (use dark meat)
1 cup yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp minced garlic (or garlic paste from the jar)
1 tsp minced ginger (or ginger paste from the jar)
Small bushel of chopped, fresh coriander leaves and stems (enough for the chicken marinade, omelette and for garnishing the kati roll. Use proportions as you please.)
2+2 tiny green chilies, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp tandoori masala (in powder form, not paste)
2 tbsp + 4 tsp corn oil (or any other neutral oil)
4 parathas (or chapatis)
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 medium onion sliced into thin rings
Mint chutney (paudinay ki chutney)
2 medium tomatoes sliced thin, into disks
Step 1: Prepare the pulled-chicken:
*In a large bowl, add yoghurt, garam masala, garlic&ginger paste, fresh coriander, 2 chopped green chilies, salt, cracked black pepper and tandoori masala powder with chicken thighs.
*Marinate 3-5 hours or preferably, overnight.
*Place a pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp oil. Add chicken plus the marinade.
*Allow to cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. When the chicken has absorbed all the juices and is almost dry, take off the flame.
*Remove meat from bones, shred by hand and set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the paratha and omelette:
*Beat 4 eggs with red chili powder, pinch salt (to taste) and chopped cilantro.
*Bear in mind that you will be making 4 omelettes, respectively, for each kati roll.
*Place a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. The diameter of the pan should be the same as your paratha or chapati.
*Add 1 tsp of oil per omelette, to the pan.
*Slowly pour in 1/4 of the egg mix and swirl, to cover the pan. As soon as you see that the bottom of the omelette is set and the top is still soft and custard-like, place the the paratha on top, it will cling to the omelette.
*Gently insert a spatula underneath the omelette and flip it over. Let the paratha bronzen a bit, then remove from flame. The omelette will be clinging to the paratha now.
Step 3: Assemble kati roll:
*In a plate, place the paratha with the omelette side up.
*Add pulled-chicken, then dot with some mint chutney.
*Add onions, tomatoes, coriander and chopped green chillies. Drizzle some more mint chutney on top.
*Roll and eat warm.
If you are preparing these for a crowd, you can prepare the paratha and omelette and serve this to your guests. Place all the accoutrements in a dish for your guests to assemble themselves at the table.