Thu Mar 2, 2017
You may have noticed an Indian theme over the last few weeks here with a recipe for paneer skewers followed by one for flaky, tender paratha. While both of those stand as greats on their own, the real purpose for why they were developed was to join them together into one of the greatest of snack foods of all time—kati rolls.
A running thread through the Meatwave since I moved to North Carolina has been creating recipes for things I used to enjoy in New York, but can't get regularly anymore, and kati rolls fall into this category. These stuffed and rolled parathas combine all the excellent and intense flavors of Indian food intoa hand held delight, with one roll being able to satisfy a slight hunger, or multiple eaten together to create a meal. I have found similar items in Durham, but for some reason they're always made with naan, which is a tad too filling and doesn't deliver the textural superiority of paratha. Luckily I feel like I nailed those paneer and paratha recipes, which translated to these kati rolls tasting pretty damn near perfect to me.
The only problem with the kati roll in a homemade context is that for the most complex and robust flavor, it requires quite a bit of inputs for a somewhat small output. For me, that makes it something I'd rather tackle when cooking for a crowd rather than just me and my wife, but at the least couple sauces I used my kati rolls can keep in the fridge for a week for reuse later.
The first sauce was a cilantro-mint chutney, which I quickly whipped together by pulsing cilantro, mint, red onion, lemon juice, chilies, garlic, and ginger together in a food processor. This will be a key component to adding a fresh flavor in the end roll.
The other sauce was a cucumber-mint raita, which is kind of like an India version of tzatziki. I made it by mixing together yogurt with grated cucumber, mint, cumin, and cayenne to form an earthy, cooling sauce that gives the kati rolls a nice bit of creaminess.
While I did successfully make my own paneer, I also picked up a couple packages of this fresh Indian cheese as well to see how they fared. The homemade paneer was pretty superior with its softer texture and fresher taste, but it's totally understandable not to want to add yet another step of making your own cheese into the what is a pretty lengthy recipe.
Really though, the store bought paneer was totally fine, especially given that it got a huge flavor boost by way of this seasoning mixture. It was primarily made up of cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, but a just a tad bit of asafoetida went a long way in creating a super savoriness that would be sorely missed if omitted. When working with the pungent asafoetida, the spice needs to be cooked first, so I sautéed the seasoning mixture in a couple tablespoons of oil before coating the paneer in it.
Once seasoned, I skewered up the cubed cheese, opting to use some smaller skewers to make them a little more manageable—less heavy and more stable—on the grill.
Prior to cooking the paneer, I used the high heat of a fresh fire to grill off a set of a paratha. I know it's more work, but I highly recommend making this bread at home—the freshness and extra-layered texture of this particular recipe makes it totally worth every second put into its production. If you're using store brought or other pre-made paratha, just be sure to heat it quickly before assembling the kati rolls so it's soft and pliable.
I worried a bit on how the paneer would handle on the grill, so I employed a two-step method to cooking it to avoid any melting or sticking issues. I first let the cheese skewers roast over indirect heat until the paneer was pleasantly soft throughout, which I tested by giving them a little squeeze with my tongs. I then moves them to direct heat to get a little extra color and light char.
I then removed the cheese cubes from the skewer and placed them in a warm paratha followed by spooning on the sauces and adding thinly sliced red onions to taste. Then I rolled it up and my kati roll was ready for prime time.
Delicious is an understatement when describing these. As you could probably tell, I was already very taken by kati rolls before attempting them myself, and the way all the immense flavors and textures came together in this recipe just further solidified by overly favorable perception of them. Starting with the outer layer, the paratha was tender and flaky, but also had a richness that gave it a substantial part in the final performance. Then came the soft and savory paneer, whose heavy spice was contrasted by the freshness brought in my mint chutney and raita. The modest amount of red onions added a light crunch and sharpness, just furthering the overall intensity.
This, my friends, is a snack in the highest order—so much good going on coming together to make something even greater. Only looking back at it while writing this lengthy post did I realize the amount of work that went into to making these small kati rolls. The memory of the procedure isn't what stuck in my mind, but rather only how awesome the end product was.
Paneer Kati Rolls
- Prep Time:
- 40 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 8 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 48 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Mint Chutney
- 2 cups packed roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 cup packed roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about 1 small)
- 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 to 2 small hot green chilies (such as Thai bird chilies), stemmed
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt, to taste
- For the Cucumber-Mint Raita
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup coarsely grated seeded hothouse cucumber
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- For the Paneer
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon asafoetida
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 14oz paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 8 pieces of paratha
- 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- To make the mint chutney: Place cilantro, mint, onion, lemon juice, chilies, garlic, and ginger in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add additional water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to form a thick, but pourable sauce. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to a week.
- To make the raita: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, cucumber, mint, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and up to three days, to chill and let flavors meld.
- To make the paneer: Combine salt, cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and asafoetida in a small bowl. Heat oil in a small saucepan until just simmering. Add in spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Place paneer cubes in a medium bowl, pour in seasoning, and toss to thoroughly coat. Thread paneer onto bamboo skewers.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place skewers on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until paneer has softened, about 5 minutes. Move skewers to hot side of grill and cook until paneer develops light charring, less than 1 minute per side. Transfer skewers to a plate.
- Place paratha on hot side of grill and quickly toast until warm and pliable. Transfer to a plate and assemble kati rolls by placing paneer cubes on paratha, removing skewer, and topping with mint chutney, raita, and sliced red onions to taste. Roll paratha closed and serve immediately.