This past week I had the opportunity to go to a really cool spot that served up some amazing “kati rolls“. In the middle of Center City, lies a little hole in the wall place called “Masala Kitchen” that serves up a powerhouse of flavor in a little soft flour roti that they make in-house.
Vaishal Soni is the owner of Masala Kitchen and he came to the US about 10 years ago with a dream of starting up an Indian restaurant with a different type of menu than most of us are used to seeing. He looked around the Philadelphia area to see what was missing and tapped into an incredible market of “street food” – otherwise known as the kati roll.
Once he decided on introducing the world, particularly Philadelphia, to the famous “kati roll”, Vaishal and his head chef Arjun Thakur created a menu that represented real, authentic Indian street food from Calcutta, India. The whole point of Masala Kitchen is to provide quick, easy to eat foods for all crowds. They serve lunch, dinner and late night foods…perfect place after a late shift at work, bar hops or party! As a matter of fact, MK is open till 3:30am – so you can grab a meal anytime. The result is nothing short of incredible, amazing and delicious!
So first, let me show you what the typical kati roll consists of….
Now check out the menu for all the different version of the kati roll, biryani rice dishes, and drinks . (For those of you not sure what biryani is…it’s like an Indian version of paella with basmati rice, preferred meat cooked up in different spices/seasoning and then mixed up together with coriander and fried onions.) And all the drinks on the menu are made and packaged in-house. And boy, are those drinks awesome!
Cool menu huh? :O) Are you hungry yet?
Alright, now to the good stuff! Here is what I had a chance to try out at MK…
Paneer Tikka Kati Roll (my personal favorite) – Paneer is a homemade curd cheese made from just milk. If made right, paneer has a beautiful, creamy and soft texture that melts in your mouth. MK did it right! This roll had perfectly seasoned paneer smothered in tikka sauce, with crunchy onions, a really great garlic flavor and soft roti wrap. It was spicy, but not over the top. A great balanced flavor that I personally loved!
Chicken Keema Kati Roll – This roll had ground chicken and lentils that were seasoned really well with different Indian spices and put together with mint chutney (amazing flavor by the way), and crunchy onions. Imagine the flavors of a meat samosa wrapped into a soft flour roti, instead of a crunchy pastry dough. This kati roll was really delicious and for me, the mint chutney made this roll a hit.
Pepperwala Kati Roll – For this kati roll, both chicken and paneer cubes were seasoned with spices and then rolled with sautéed bell peppers and mint chutney. It was a really simple roll with a burst of flavor. It was a really genius idea to put two delicious items like chicken AND paneer into one roll! Who knew!?
Chicken Biryani – If you’ve ever had biryani before, then you know that this dish is really a true traditional dish within many Indian homes. But, the problem with biryani is – sometimes even if the meat is great, the rice is either overcooked or al dente. Personally, I like my rice fully cooked and soft, but not overcooked to the point of mush. And there is nothing worse than having biryani with al dente rice – it’s just not a dish that should require you to have any sort of crunch in your bite of rice. MK was completely on point with their biryani. Perfectly seasoned chicken thighs in perfectly cooked rice with the beautiful traditional orange colored rice and green coriander mixed in. I really enjoyed their biryani, so thank you MK for doing this dish right!
Lastly, let’s talk about the drinks…there were a lot of great choices and all made fresh and in-house so you knew all the ingredients going in. All simple, fresh, quality ingredients are put into each drink.
Lassi (Mango and Rose) – Lassi is a traditional yogurt based drink that is sweet and flavored with either Mango, Sugar or Rose. The lassi at MK was thick, creamy and really good. I think they are great with lighter meals though, as the drinks themselves are pretty heavy and filling.
Mint Lemonade – A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!! Actually, this was probably one of the best flavored lemonades I’ve had so far. The lemonade was sweet, but not over the top. The mint was fresh and gave off a wonderful aroma as soon as you opened up the bottle. The taste of the mint and lemon together is incredibly refreshing and even more delicious ice cold. As a matter of fact – I could drink this stuff all day if I could! Definitely a winner!
Kala Khatta Drink – This is a traditional indian drink made with blackberries and sugar. It is sweet and almost has a licorice type of after-taste that is a bit different than what you may be used to, but oddly addictive. I literally “taste-tested” 2 bottles of this stuff before I figured out what was in it. And this is probably my 2nd favorite drink after the mint lemonade now.
Chaas – this is a savory version of a lassi drink with cumin, ginger, and salt. MK add a little chili in this drink but it’s not spicy at all. It just helps balance out the cumin and ginger flavors so its not too strong. In many Indian homes, it’s a drink used to take the edge off a very spicy meal.
Listen, I’m just going to keep it simple. You have to go to Masala Kitchen and try their kati rolls, rice dishes and drinks. Vai and Arjun are two really great guys who are not only just super nice people, but have a true passion for food. They are making traditional indian street food crave-worthy and easy to access here in the Philly area, while maintaining the foods culture and authenticity! Just GO! :O)
If you haven’t already, check them out online at http://www.masalakitchenphilly.com
Do you have a favorite kati roll flavor from MK? Let us know in the comments! :O)