Friday, July 15, 2011

Kasa Indian - Chicken Tikka Masala Kati Roll and Vegetable Samosa

A few years ago I visited Kasa Indian, when they were the sort of underground word-of-mouth you have to TRY this place kind of restaurant. That was at their Marina location, which has now since closed, depriving that part of the city of the homestyle Indian cuisine for which Kasa Indian is known. But even if you can't make it out to the still-thriving Castro location, fear not, for Kasa cravings are now on the move! After a few pre-launch events they officially launched the "Kati Roller" truck, which debuted at the Haight Steet Off the Grid Thursday night.

Their menu on Thursday was fairly limited, highlighting their famous Kati Rolls with either chicken tikka masala or gobi aloo fillings. They also offered three different rice plates and Vegetable Samosas as a side. No one would leave the truck thirsty, however, as they had a selection of eight different beverages. This of course included a mango lassi, but that was temporarily sold out when I tried to order.

The kati roll is the quintessential Indian street food. It's similar to a burrito in that it's a hand-held pocket filled with meats and vegetables. The kati roll is thought to have originated in Kolkata, when commuters asked for something portable to eat. Traditionally they were kebabs wrapped in paratha, but nowadays any wrap vaguely resembling the original is referred to as a kati roll. Kasa Indian makes theirs by taking one of their Indian specialties and wrapping it a flaky, buttery flat bread known as a roti.

I was eager to try Kasa's Chicken Tikka Masala Kati Roll to see how it compared to when I ate at their restaurant. From what I remembered, I liked my food, but I thought it was extraordinarily spicy. Today Kasa offered a choice between normal and extra spicy and needless to say, I didn't choose extra spicy! I also ordered one Vegetable Samosa, and my food was ready within a few minutes. On their blog Kasa cites speed as one of their goals of the truck, so already they were successful in this area. The line moved quickly and efficiently.

My Kati Roll was served in an aluminum wrapper, but it wasn't meant to be eaten quite like a burrito. It was a bit awkward to actually hold it since the wrapper didn't encase the roll. Instead it merely opened up to reveal my roll, and I was left to bunch it all up at the bottom and balance the rest of the roll with my other hand. It was served along with a small container of raita (yogurt flavored with cucumber, herbs and spices including cumin). It was piping hot even after my short walk to the grass, and the buttery roti had a slight crisp to it, making it almost dissolve in my mouth.

Like the walk-in original, I was expecting this Kati Roll to be super spicy, but I got a nice surprise. It has a bit of underlying spice, but it wasn't enough to kill my taste buds or overpower any of the other aromatic flavors. The chicken was tender and moist, the marinated onions gave it a nice sweetness and the chutney added another layer of complexity. When I topped it with the raita there was a nice contrast between spicy and cool. All of the flavors mixed well together, and I thought the Kati Roll was pleasing overall. However, if you would have blindfolded me and asked what Indian dish it was I am not sure I could have identified tikka masala. It lacked the creamy sauce that I identify with tikka masala,  though I suppose if it were too saucy then the roll might not have held together. It was also a tad bit oily, but not enough to cause any serious damage to my Zantac-addicted stomach.

The Vegetable Samosa was down-right terrific! It tasted as if it had been made only seconds before it was served to me. The pastry was thin, crispy and perfectly fried. The filling was not only bursting with flavor, it was also texturally appealing, with both chunks of tender potato and mashed spuds. Green peas were scattered throughout, completing this triangular snack. It was served with a container of chutney. As soon as I was finished I wanted another and would have been perfectly content spending the entire Off the Grid munching on these delectable treats.

Did I enjoy my meal enough to go back? Absolutely! One thing to me that stands out about Kasa is their fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors. They have a lot more curries in their restaurant, so I hope that as the truck begins to get its wings, more will be added to their menu. And since they plan to have a FiDi location, I am sure I will get the opportunity to sample them all!

Chicken Tikka Masala Kati Roll Rating: 3/5
Vegetable Samosa Rating: 4/5 (ratings guide)

Kasa Indian (@kasaindian) $4.00 per Kati Roll, $2.50 per Vegetable Samosa

Kasa Indian Truck on Urbanspoon

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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