Note Book: Paratha rolls in the City of Lights

Published November 6, 2014
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KARACHI has now emerged as the paratha roll capital of the world.

The city has no parallel when it comes to the tasty rolls. Be it the legendary Tunday kebab in the Indian city of Lucknow or the chapli kebabs in our very own Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nothing hits the spot like the paratha roll. You can get it in many forms in any part of the city, either with a chicken or beef filling and give your taste buds something they will relish.

The origin of paratha rolls can be traced back to the 1970s when Tariq Road was famous for its unconventional kebabs inside the parathas. But not many fast-food joints considered paratha rolls worthy enough to be on their menu as the item seemed more related to the bun kebab rather than sandwiches and burgers. However, it all changed in the 1990s when paratha rolls became a must-have desi food item in Karachi. It became part of the city’s identity just as chapli kebab is Peshawar’s and nehari and halvah poori is Lahore’s.

For those who visit Karachi from other cities, having a paratha roll is something of a ritual since it doesn’t exist elsewhere. Just like other cities tried and failed to replicate the ‘Karachi ka mashoor kebab paratha’, the authentic ‘Karachi ka mashoor paratha roll’ exists only in this city.

The price of paratha rolls in the ’90s made a huge contribution in making them famous all over the city. A roll would cost you between Rs15 and Rs20 when it rose to prominence. They were the lunch, snack and dinner of college-going kids, office boys and shopaholic parents since it didn’t take much time to serve. One could carry it while driving a car, travelling in public transport or coming home after a hectic day at work. Thus the paratha roll became part and parcel of the culture of Karachi!

Whether you live in the posh localities of Defence and Clifton, in middle class areas such as Nazimabad and Gulshan-i-Iqbal or in the commercially-dominated localities like Tariq Road, the love of paratha rolls exists everywhere. The bigger franchises have branches in different parts of the city whereas others rely on home delivery orders, but the phenomenon is here to stay.

You can order chicken and beef rolls with condiments like chutney, cheese, mayonnaise, garlic mayo and even an omelette if you are in the mood! The popularity of the ‘roll in a paratha’ has exceeded all expectations and now there are shops in leading malls of the city where rolls are served and devoured. Karachi has surely become the City of Paratha Rolls, and there are no two opinions about it!

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2014

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