Omaago

Oh Calcutta

No city does biryani like Kolkata does. No city, obviously, can do kati rolls of Kolkata quality either. Kolkata concocts these dishes to such fine calibre because in Kolkata, the art of cooking is the art of alchemy. The elements of their alchemy are born of social traditions that go centuries back in history, culinary practices that have been nurtured over countless generations and that timeless penchant the city has always had for experimenting with new flavours. It’s these flavours of Kolkata that Omaago’s experienced ustads, all from Kolkata, have transplanted to Kathmandu. In Bengali, “Omaago” means “Oh, Mother!” It’s an expression that escapes the lips of a connoisseur when a culinary creation registers but the most exquisite notes of flavour on said connoisseur’s palate. And it’s the same expression that Kathmandu’s denizens emote when they bite into Omaago’s kati roll, or when they savour a spoonful of Omaago’s biryani.

Omaago’s biryani

In the mid 19th century, Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh, was exiled to Kolkata. He brought with him cuisines that his ancestors and their royal cooks had perfected over generations. And among them, the biryani was further perfected in Kolkata. The biryani, perhaps more than any other Indian dish, represents the perfect amalgam of the subcontinent’s flavours. It thus stands to reason that the Nawab and his kitchen ustads devoted so much energy and resources to refining this dish—which became the prototype for today’s Kolkata Biryani. Omaago’s biryani traces its lineage to that dish perfected by Wajid Ali Shah.

Omaago’s rolls

The kati roll is modern-day Kolkata personified. It’s a takeaway item that could only have been conjured by a sophisticated people with a rich history yet living in urban environs. Kati rolls came into existence in the early 20th century—just because a British hierarch did not want to get his hands dirty while eating kebab. Kebabs are roasted on a skewer (the word ‘kati’ means wooden skewer).

To keep the Englishman’s hands from getting dirty, a Kolkata cook rolled a plain paratha around a kebab and wrapped the roll with paper. Ever since, similar rolls, today known as kati rolls, have become a Kolkata staple. Omaago’s kati rolls are made in the same way as they have been for over a century on the streets of Kolkata.

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