This vegan Kati Roll from the streets of Calcutta has amazing texture and flavor, with baked tofu, and it is packed with veggies including mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes.
A Kati Roll is a popular street food from one of my favorite cities on the planet: Calcutta, or Kolkata, as it is now called.
There is something about big, buzzing cities that really appeals to me. And Calcutta, one of India's most crowded and oldest cities, has a million life stories in its narrow, old lanes, its lingering memories of the British colonization of India, and its communist politics that has always set it apart in the world's largest democracy.
I've had a long association with the city. When I lived in Bombay, I worked as a correspondent for Calcutta's biggest daily, The Telegraph. It was an exciting time, and one I've written about before in this Pav Bhaji post, although it was cut short when I moved here to the United States to go to grad school. I actually only visited Calcutta years later, and I found the city to be as wonderful as I had ever imagined it, or even more so. The traffic was overwhelming, the streets nearly as crowded as rush hour in Bombay, and the people friendly and welcoming.
And there was the food.
The cuisine of West Bengal, the state that's home to Calcutta, is well known around India and perhaps the world, but Calcutta has its own specialties, like the Chinese food served at the many restaurants in India's only Chinatown, and dozens of varieties of lipsmacking street food.
One such street food is the Kati Roll, or Kathi Roll.
The Kati Roll is said to have originated at a restaurant in Calcutta, and it is made of a flaky wrap stuffed with spicy kababs cooked on a skewer (a kati). There are many versions of it -- vegetarian and not-- cooked in restaurants, streets and homes across India, and in Bombay, the Frankie -- a popular street food -- bears a close resemblance to a Kati Roll. But today, I am putting my own vegan spin on this Calcutta classic with my Tofu Kati Roll.
For the filling, I baked the tofu until it was really chewy. Then I tossed it with some fresh green bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. A Kati Roll wrap is usually made with refined flour and coated with an egg wash to make it extra flaky. I used whole wheat flour and a tofu-chickpea-flour wash for the crispiness that worked like a charm.
Try it. You will be singing for Joy.
For the wrap
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Water for kneading
- Oil spray
- ¼ cup firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon besan (chickpea flour)
- ¼ cup non-dairy milk
For the filling
- 14 oz extra-firm tofu
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium red onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 teaspoon ginger (grated)
- 1 teaspoon garlic (grated or minced)
- 2 medium tomatoes (diced)
- 1 large green bell pepper, (diced)
- 2 cups button mushrooms (quartered or halved)
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chaat masala (available in Indian stores. If you absolutely can't get it, use some lemon juice
- Salt to taste
Make the wrap
- Blend the tofu, chickpea flour and nondairy milk into a smooth, thick paste. If needed, add some more milk. Set aside. This is your "egg" wash.
- Mix together the flour and salt and then add enough water to knead into a soft, pliable dough. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into six pieces.
- Roll each piece into a smooth ball, flour the surface and your rolling pin, and roll into a circle about four inches in diameter.
- Spray lightly with oil, fold it once and then once more, and then roll out into as thin a circle as you possibly can. Mine end up about eight inches in diameter.
- Heat a griddle and place the wrap on it. When bubbles start to appear, brush on the "egg" wash with a pastry brush. Spray over it lightly with oil and flip the wrap. Let it cook until golden-brown spots appear on the underside. Remove and set aside, covered with a kitchen towel.
Make the filling
- Place the tofu in a microwave-safe dish and zap two minutes. Drain out accumulated water, flip the tofu brick over, and zap another two minutes. When the tofu is cool enough to handle, cut into six slices. Place the tofu slices in a baking pan sprayed with oil. Lightly spray the top of the tofu. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven about 45 minutes or until the tofu is really chewy. Cut into a small dice and set aside.
- Heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and, when they sputter, add the onions and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions start to brown.
- Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, coriander and cumin powder, paprika and turmeric. Let the mixture cook until the tomatoes lose most of their moisture and become a couple of shades darker.
- Add the bell pepper and mushrooms and tofu and mix thoroughly. Let it cook until the peppers are slightly tender but still have a bite and all the moisture in the mixture has evaporated. Add the chaat masala or lemon juice and salt to taste.
- Turn off heat.
- Place some filling in the center of the wrap, add some raw onions or spring onions and tomatoes for an authentic experience, and wrap the Kathi roll tightly. Place seam side down, cut into two or three, and serve warm.
Im so happy I stumbled upon your website. We have vegan guests staying at our humble abode over Christmas and I had no idea about vegan food and what to cook. This recipe, and many more, will keep our staff busy and hopefully our customers very happy.
I tried your recipe today and it was just too good...the egg wash recipe is really good and our whole family including my 3 year old toddler relished it so much.
Hi Shailly, so glad you tried it! And your toddler-- we have a new addition to our family (our newly adopted son, Jay) and this reminds me I must make it for him! 🙂
Superb Vaishali, those kati rolls look so tempting, love the idea of using tofu here, looks very tempting 🙂
I'm actually making this right now! I had to make a few tweaks because of what I had around the house. I had to use hot Hungarian paprika, ground ginger and garlic powder (I didn't have any cloves or knobby roots around). I also threw in a few mustard seeds into the seasoning oil, and used the juice of two key limes instead of chaat masala. I will be serving this wonderfully aromatic and chunky dish over brown basmati rice. I'll probably still leave some moisture in it. It smells quite divine, and we're both really looking forward to dinner tonight!
PS it *was* really yummy 🙂
Thank you for your blog and your recipes!
Been a while since I dropped by your home. Caught up with work project deadlines.
Love your latest recipe. I have fond memories of Kolkatta food :)) Delish.
Can't wait to try the recipe you ahve shared. Will keep you posted!
Guess, I can use paneer instead of Tofu.
A big hug!
Do you think we could use besan omelet for egg style fried rice? Used to love that.
These sound amazing! One of the local Indian restaurants near us features lots of street food like kati rolls, Bombay frankies, and pahadi noodles, but for some reason I've never tried making them at home. This clearly needs to change!
Hi Eileen, they are surprisingly easy, and definitely worth trying at home. Hope you do!
This sounds divine, even more if I could get it on the street of Calcutta! I'm GF, so I'll try using a GF flour to make the wrap. I love your stories with your recipes. I've been to India a few times so it always brings up fond memories. I'd love to go again, someday. Blessings.
Hi Marty, so happy to meet another Indophile-- my favorite country in the world, but I'm biased. 🙂 And thrilled you enjoy the stories, because I love telling them.
This would be great with a gluten-free flatbread. Here's one suggestion, for a GF Arbi Paratha:
Deb @ Saving the Crumbs
Oooo! Wow, that looks so scrumptious! I love the rich flavors and spices of Indian food. I actually may be visiting India later this year. How safe do you think it is for a tourist to eat the street food?
Hi Deb, how lovely you are going to India! I can guarantee you'll love it. 🙂
I would advise not to eat street food from the street food cart vendors, but you can find all of the Indian street foods at restaurant chains like Kamat's and Vithal's, and many others. Although there's no experience like eating at a food cart, you definitely don't want to risk getting the famous Delhi belly. 🙂