Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spicy Ramp Kati Roll

It's that time of the year. Spring has arrived and with it the rich bounty of ramps at the farmers markets!

Ever since ramp-mania began to show up on chef's menus everywhere a few years ago, this seasonal vegetable has been featured prominently on foodie blogs including mine. Beloved as much for its short life span (ranging from 4-6 weeks) as its intense garlicky flavor, I found this season's crop of ramps to particularly spicy.

My favorite way of eating ramps is a simple sauté. But since I found myself stockpiling on bunches of ramps galore, I decided that I didn't need to be stingy with my experimentations.  One of the best ways to feature ramps is definitely in a pesto. Since I had created a ramp pesto in the past, I wanted to give it a bit of an update and use it in an entrèe from one of my favorite cuisines that I rarely have unfortunately: an Indian kati roll. 

Generally, kati rolls are street food that are characterized as an Indian flat bread stuffed with a filling of your choice. They were introduced to NYC with much acclaim in Greenwich Village late night joint, Kati Roll in 2002 with many trying to replicate their success. A favorite with NYU students because of its proximity and a destination for after-hour eats after a night of drinking and dancing, you can usually expect to wait a bit to place your order. But it is always well worth the wait. The soft bread and crunchy crust on the outside with the delicious filling of your choice rolled up inside is so much better than the usual pizza or Grey's Papaya hot dog.

For the filling, I decided to go completely vegetarian with tofu, kale and ramps. Veggies, hope you're reading! This is a rarity for me because as much as I enjoy eating vegetarian food, I just like a bit of protein to my meals. However, I think Indian food always creates some of the best vegetarian dishes around so I felt it apropos to use tofu as my protein for the kati roll.

For my spicy ramp kati rolls, tofu is really great to use since it takes on the flavor of the marinade and ramps. You can also replace it with eggplant or portabello mushrooms. The kale leaf adds a tiny fresh crunch and the topping of tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and cilantro cools the heat of the pesto. The lemon juice brings all the flavors out and adds a nice zing to the roll. If you want to remove some of the heat, I would just leave out the Thai red chile I used in the pesto.

This is a great make ahead dish as it takes only a few minutes to cook the ramps, tofu and paratha. Have all the ingredients together and a yummy meal will be ready for you in minutes even if you are on the go!
The frenzy for ramps at Union Square Farmer's Market in NYC.
Serves 4

Spicy Asian ramp pesto (makes 2 cups):
1 bunch ramp, leaves only (reserve stem & bulbs for another use)
1 cup mint
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 Thai red chile, seeded
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kati Rolls:
16 slices extra firm tofu, cut into medium size rectangles 1/2" thick
1 1/4 cups spicy ramp pesto
1/2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and diced finely
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, diced finely
2 tbsp Vidalia onions, diced finely
Juice of 1/2 lemon
12 ramp stalks, cleaned and quartered
4 tbsp grape seed oil
4 frozen paratha or Indian flat bread
4 pieces raw kale, rib removed
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2 tbsp raw ramp leaves, sliced into thin strips (optional)

For pesto:
1. In a food processor, add all ingredients except olive oil. On high, blend it together and slowly add oil into the mixture. Process for several minutes until it reaches the right consistency. Add more oil as needed.

2. Refrigerate in a sealed jar until ready to use. Keeps well for 2-3 weeks.

For Kati Roll:
1. In a large ziplock bag, marinade tofu with 1 cup pesto for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make sure each piece is well covered.

2. In a small mixing bowl, add onion, tomatoes, cucumber and lemon juice. Season lightly with freshly ground black peppercorn. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Pre-heat an oiled cast iron skillet. Add ramps once hot and char on both sides. Remove from heat and put aside until ready to use.

4. Put tofu on the skillet at an angle so it creates nice char marks. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side until it is creates golden brown marks. Make sure your fan or window is open as it will get smoky! Turn off heat and keep to the side until ready to plate.

5. In a skillet, warm up 1 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Cook the paratha on each side for approximately 3-4 minutes until golden brown and crusty on both sides. Repeat with each paratha.

6. To plate, lay paratha flat and smear the remaining pesto evenly along center of bread. Next, lay 1 pc of raw kale on top followed by 3 ramps. Lay 4 pieces of cooked tofu at a diagonal. Sprinkle with onion, cucumber and tomato mixture and cilantro-ramp. Repeat with the last 3 rolls. Serve immediately.

Happy eating!



  1. Very nice...and now I'm craving a kathi roll with some paneer in it! You'll have to take us to the NY spot you mention when we're next there. I have yet to try ramps...wonder if they're available here? You'll have to come check it out for me as I don't think that I would even recognize it if I saw it. And I'm proud of you for using one whole bird's eye!

    1. I don't think ramps can be found outside of the US as it nearly grows along the Appalachians or in wet cool climates. If you find them let me know! They really are delicious. Yes! We will have a late night Kati roll so you enjoy it with atmosphere and all. :)