LINCOLN PARK — There's one authentic Indian dish that restaurateur Kaushik Guha says you can't find on Devon Avenue, or anywhere else in Chicago, and that's the traditional kati roll: flatbread filled with protein and vegetables, topped with chutney.
Served as street food in the Indian city of Kolkata, kati rolls are the star of Guha's new fast-casual restaurant, Hakka Bakka, which is on the ground level of a DePaul University dorm at 1251 W. Fullerton Ave.
Since opening at the end of September, Guha has been serving up kati rolls for $7-$8 to DePaul students and neighborhood folks alike.
To make a kati roll, flatbread is pan-seared and then filled with vegetables plus your choice of chicken, lamb or artisan cheese, known as paneer. Guha said the leg of lamb at Hakka Bakka comes from an Australian farm.
There are three marinades to choose from: tikka, haryali and reshmi. The rolls are then topped with an egg and your choice of chili garlic, cilantro or tamarind chutney.
Also on the menu: rice bowls, salad bowls, masala French fries with cilantro mayonnaise and mango lassi, a traditional Indian yogurt-based drink.
Guha is originally from India, but moved to the United States 13 years ago. He now lives in suburban Park Ridge. The idea for the restaurant came to Guha when he began noticing the lunch habits of Downtown workers while working as an economic consultant.
"When I was working Downtown, everyone would avoid Indian food for lunch because it was so heavy," he said. "People are tired of getting Indian food that puts them in a food coma. This is light and fresh."
On a recent afternoon, customers like Sim Chohan, 27, were chowing on kati rolls.
"It's really good. I'm Indian, so I can tell it's authentic Indian food with a twist," Chohan said.
Kati rolls originated in 1932 at Nizam Restaurant in the heart of Kolkata, according to Hakka Bakka's website. Today, variations of the kati roll are sold in other countries across the world like Mumbai, which calls them Frankies.
Even though kati means skewer in Bengali, there is no skewer in a kati roll. As the story goes, kati kabobs, which are served on skewers, were popular, but the iron skewers themselves weren't — they were too heavy. Enter kati rolls, which are made up of similar ingredients minus the skewer plus flatbread.
For Guha, educating customers on kati rolls is part of the fun of running his own restaurant.
"We took this concept, upgraded the quality of the meat, and made it customizable," he said. "You won't find this on Devon" Avenue.
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