The first ever kathi roll wouldn’t have been a surprise. Soft morsels of skewer-roasted chunks of meat, wrapped in a paratha. One prevalent and easily-believed origin theory: it emerged because finicky British babus did not want to touch kebabs with their hands.

The kathi roll, as we know it, was created in Kolkata by the eatery Nizam’s in 1932. Originally, it was finely roasted mutton inside a flaky paratha—roll purists would label any other type sacrilege. When it travelled to the rest of India in the late 1970s, eclectic variants emerged, making it a pan-Indian street-food staple.

In Delhi, kathi outlets are known for their own take on the roll. Here’s our list of Delhi’s best:

Rollmaal

HS-17, Kailash Colony Market

Price: 350 for two

It’s almost a Subway-style menu: Pick your paratha/roti options, which include the flaky paratha and rumaali roti. If you’re feeling brave, try the Malabar paratha. Besides the standard spiced onion and green chutney, there’s a side portion of Choorma papad, a fun, spicy embellishment.

For the filling, choose from four vegetarian options or four chicken options or two mutton options. Our picks: The Andhra Mutton and Achari Paneer Tikka rolls, and the Dahi Kebab Tikka roll (not if you like your rolls hot). Rollmaal’s imagination runs wild with “International Rolls" and “Special Rolls". (give some examples)

Khan Chacha

D-3, Connaught Place

Price: 400 for two

Khan Chacha is a hugely popular north Indian food eatery that started in 1972. Today, it is Delhi’s most famous spot for kathi rolls. Photos of celebrities and politicians who have samples their stuff adorn the six branches. Their Paneer and Chicken kathi rolls are fairly ordinary. But, the Paneer roll is better than the Chicken Tikka roll, in which the chicken pieces are a shade of crimson. The Mutton Kakori Roll is divine.

Karim’s

16, Gali Kababian

Price: 350 for two

The Mecca of Mughlai food, the Jama Masjid Karim’s is a tourist attraction. As you approach Gali Kababian, just ask any local for the directions. Started by Haji Zahuruddin, reportedly a direct descendant of the chefs who cooked for Mughal emperors, in 1913, Karim’s now has six branches. Patrons swear by this branch.

Karim’s is serious about meats, and has a weak vegetarian selection. But the roll, delicious by most standards, isn’t worth ordering simply because Karim’s has so many other options on the menu. You will forget the roll after a bite of their Spiced Tandoori Raan or the Chicken Jahangiri.

Double chicken double egg roll , at Nizam’s Kathi Kababs, New Delhi.
Double chicken double egg roll , at Nizam’s Kathi Kababs, New Delhi.

Nizam’s Kathi Kababs

H-5/6, Plaza Building Place

Price: 450 for two

Another Delhi legend, and a namesake of the Kolkata Nizam’s, its 10 outlets are scattered across Delhi. The prices are steep in comparison to the other places on this list, but they more than make up for it in size and flavour. The rolls are large, the paratha is sumptuously crispy and the egg coating inside it is at that perfect ratio of semi-fluffy and completely cooked. The Double Egg rolls are large enough to choke on, and it takes a while to return to a functional state after eating one. Nizam’s has a “Calorie counters option", which replaces the paratha with a rumaali roti. For vegetarians, the Paneer Roll is a reliable option.

34, Chowringhee Lane

93, Satya Niketan, South Moti Bagh

Price: 300 for two people

With 19 locations across Delhi, Chowringhee started in 2004 with the goal of bringing a taste of Kolkata to the Capital, with a north Indian twist. Localities near large colleges tend to become petri-dishes for innovative cuisine, and the Satyaniketan branch of the 34, Chowringhee Lane franchise, in the heart of Delhi University’s South Campus, does brisk business. Chowringhee is the best place for vegetarian rolls in Delhi.

They use the Indian street-food trope of combining north Indian with Chinese, and make the Veg. Manchurian Kathi roll and Tandoori Momos. Their Mutton Keema roll and Chilli Paneer rolls are to die for. Chilli Paneer Roll, Soya Roll, Mushroom Roll, Paneer Lababdar Roll and Paneer Malai Tikka roll—that’s still just a third of all the vegetarian options.

Art of Spices

B-1/3, behind City Hospital, Pusa Road, Karol Bagh

Price: 300 for two

On a dirty, dishevelled street off the Karol Bagh Metro station sits Art of Spices. It isn’t famous like Karim’s or Khan Chacha, but what it does have is a roll that can take you on a journey. Every bite of their Double Chicken Double Egg roll is heavenly. Soft, succulent chunks of chicken are wrapped in flakiest of parathas; the egg and the spices of the meat engaged in a seductive pas des deux. Their vegetarian option is equally enticing, and although the place has no seating, it is among the most pocket-friendly in this list. A clear winner.

Most of these places have more than one outlet, and the taste and quality have been known to vary from outlet to outlet.

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