Those who have visited Kolkata or have stayed there couldn’t have missed the ubiquitous “Egg-Roll” stalls everywhere in the city . You will find them also in other towns of West Bengal and some of the neighbouring states but somehow it is not so wide spread in the rest of the country. Maybe because , generally people in other states have a definite culture of vegetarianism and the smell of fried eggs in public places may not be welcome to many . Or maybe it is the same reason why Vada-Pav stalls are not so much popular beyond Mumbai and Maharashtra. Whatever , it may be , if anybody has lived in Kolkata for an extended period of time in his/her youth , Egg-Roll becomes a part of life and you miss it, elsewhere . Those who have not visited Kolkata must have surely come across Egg-Roll stalls during the Durga Puja.
In Mumbai , there is something called Frankie which is something nearer to Egg-Rolls but there is a difference between the two . Also the Shawarma , middle eastern in origin is also a distant cousin . But the taste of Egg-Roll remains different. After staying for over a decade now in Mumbai , I find that there is indeed a growing culture of Egg-rolls in the city as also the number of Bengali food joints .
Egg-Roll is different in different countries . The Chinese egg roll is a different thing altogether . I have myself seen in Macau and Bangkok that what they call eggrolls are actually types of spring-rolls dipped in egg batter and fried crisp . Other countries may have different definitions, I am sure . Bengalis have this knack of creating different category of snacks sounding something else or meaning something different from the original . For example take Alu Chop , Kobirazi cutlet , Fish fry , Kachoori , Moglai Parota , Ledikeny etc. Each of course has its history which are quite interesting , too .
Kolkata Egg-roll , as the outlet in my area proudly advertises , for the uninitiated, is in its simple form a plain paratha with a layer of omelette on one side rolled with pieces of onion, chillies with a drop or two of green lemon juice inside . This is the basic eggroll . Now there are a lot of derivatives like Double Egg-roll , which ( yes, you have correctly guessed ) means two layers of eggs on both sides , chicken roll , mutton roll etc. There are variations for vegetarians too . But they are not egg rolls . Just vegetables or paneer wrapped in parathas . Like the Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. I confess that till date I have never tried a veg-roll .
Those who have tasted will only know how a bite on the minced or skewered kebabs of succulent juicy chicken or mutton , which goes as the filling in a hot tangy eggroll can elevate, uplift and change your mood . How mesmerising , the act of peeling off the layer of paper around the roll is , almost like enjoying a delectable strip-tease . The heaviest eggroll I have eaten in my life is the Double Egg Mutton roll from Hot Kati Roll on Park street in 2004 before I left Kolkata . It is really a fat monster to gulp down . The preparation of an Egg-roll is simple and quick and this is the reason of its popularity . It can be a very filling snack to satiate hunger instantly and at least once I had to perforce subsist on a dinner of two Egg Chicken rolls . This is actually a very versatile food to have in many occasions . Like with friends in a group , in the interval of a cinema , during the rehearsal of a play , during the night long trek of Durga Puja pandals etcetera . It is as good on a rainy or winter evening with a cup of warm tea as also on a dry hot evening with a bottle of cold beer. It can be a comfort food as well as a on-the-go food .
My affair with eggrolls started probably in the late seventies 77-78 when I used to visit Kolkata and feeling hungry during my long treks on the roads , invariably had a roll . If I am not mistaken and my memory serves me right ,the price of a simple eggroll then was around Rupees three . But of course egg, oil and flour was also much cheaper then, even in those Burre Dins!!!
Then we had egg-roll shops opening up in our town Jamshedpur too by the start of eighties . The roll culture was initially Kolkata centered . Because I remember in 87 -88 also there was no eggroll stall in places like Coochbehar and Burdwan . Only a very few in Siliguri . But by the nineties , it spread all over in the state . At Nizam restaurant near New Market , Esplanade , they used to sell beef-rolls which were quite cheap compared to mutton-rolls and very popular too . I don’t know if they still do . Hot Kati Roll , the shop on Park Street was a much frequented shop , both for its heavy rolls as also the taste . Many a times during late sittings in office or some programmes, we had rolls from that shop. And egg-roll always had that socialist aura with it being the food for masses with nutrition.
Nowadays , I have this divine but most socialist food very rarely because of (misplaced) dietary norms . But I will vouch for its efficiency as a snack .