On Paranthe Wali Galli’s third anniversary we got Rahul Arora to tell us how he turned Kolkata into a parantha-loving city
When you pass the snug, Lake Terrace outlet of Paranthe Wali Galli, you can smell the distinct smoky profile of tawa cooking, and there’s a very good reason for that. "When I set up the place I told my landlord that I won't be taking the chimney on top; I wanted it on the road so passersby can smell the parantha being made! That's also why we don't have music here because you can't get music in a street food joint," Rahula Arora, the chef and owner, tells us as we sit over some Kesar Pista Parathas.
As the eatery steps into its third year, it's important to note how Arora has created a demand for authentic Punjabi-style atta (wheat flour) paranthas, amid the luchi-loving gourmands of the city. Known for its quirky ingredient pairings, Paranthe Wali Galli has carved out a fantastic niche which is hard to topple. We got Arora to tell us what's ahead for the venture:
Tell us, why paranthas?
Oh, I was so tired of everyone re-imagining the Punjabi parantha as a 'porota' which is an accompaniment and is made of maida. We make atta paranthas like Punjabi households do, and they are absolutely loaded.
They are of course, a lot healthier as there's no white flour in them. This is what I ate since a kid, and my mum helped me curate the menu and she's even my taster!
How has your customer base changed?
They do want to experiment now, unlike at the beginning when most of them just wanted to play it safe. For instance, we are the only place in the city which serves dessert paranthas and people love them!
We bring in many flavours of desi street food like the Mutton cheese paratha has been inspired by Coorgi style of cooking while the tawa pulaos have a distinct influence of the west.
What are you planning for the anniversary?
We're of course adding some really incredible numbers to our menu like a range Tawa Pulaos, and as a fun challenge, we will ask a few culinary experts and celebrities to give us any ingredient and we'll make a parantha out of it! We'll bring the paratha to their homes so they can taste it.
We did it once and got the most incredible requests including salted caramel parantha, bubble gum parantha. Plus, we are going to feature them in our menu with the names of the people who threw the challenge.
What do you think about the culinary culture in the city?
The market slump is obviously affecting the food business massively. Moreover, the food apps are cultivating a culture where you draw people in to a place with discounts.
But there are good places who can't afford to give out discounts. If this keeps happening, the good stuff will just filter out. I think the restaurant industry is at a point where we need to stand together.
You're working on a cloud kitchen...
Yes, we are, it will be called Chhoti Paranthe Wale Galli and we wanted to announce it on our anniversary. It should be in place by early next year. Cloud kitchens are the future, that's the way to go, especially in a market that's catering to people only scouting for discounts you have to fight it out.
A cloud kitchen requires less resources and licensing, there are ways of cutting cost. And we have always catered to the masses anyway.