Rola Wala are opening a permanent site on Brushfield Street in Spitalfields in early July. (yay!). We got behind the scenes with founder Mark Wright…
How did Rola Wala begin?
A hot January, driving from Delhi to Agra. I’d paid a local to drive my girlfriend, an Indian army officer (we’d just met on the 20 hour train ride to Delhi), and I to drive us.
We passed by a lonely Indian roadside dhaba, where I tasted the worlds best Chicken Tikka… Unlike typical ‘curry shop’ red-dye tikka, these were chicken cubes as big as golf ball, a depth of flavour accentuated by a crispy charr on the outside, the chicken had an almost pillowly texture.
Describe those flavours…
Perfectly seasoned… The spices interplaying in a way that was almost harmonic. I asked the owner of the stand for the recipe – he motioned to some ingredients and I could work out half of the recipe… Rola Wala began with me literally learning to cook in order to discover the second half of the recipe to create the worlds best chicken tikka.
Tell us about your travels in India… where did you go and what food discoveries did you make along the way?
When it comes to food, I operate three simple rules in India – never eat fresh food, never drink fresh water, never use cutlery…
Having this approach to eating might sound simple but it was pretty much my first discovery, and the most important. In 6 weeks I had an uneasy stomach once, so these simple rules did me proud.
What did you want to share most from your travels with Rola Wala?
The freshest flavours discovered on the streets of India – fuelled by spice.
You’ve worked at many of the street food markets and festivals including KERB and Street Feast. What will you do differently in your new London home?
It will give us the opportunity to take everything we’ve learnt in the last few years and condense those lessons into a 500 sq ft hot house. A fundamental truth in business is that your first instincts are usually correct, so while I could talk about an extended menu, better service, brighter design, faster, bigger more etc… this is irrelevant – it’s actually about doing what we originally set out to do on day one – make Indian fresh enough to eat every day, as well as we possibly can at our new flagship store..
Your top tip for balancing flavours and heat…
Its about matching complementary flavours through taste – you MUST hit the main ‘tastes’ – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami – once you do this you should choose the most pungent chilli you can, and use just a little bit of it. Don’t be afraid: with a good chilli, the flavour it imparts will far exceed the heat it puts out, so a small amount of a very hot chilli doesn’t not necessarily equal a hot dish.
What ingredient could you not live without in the Rola Wala kitchen?
Your favourite Street Eats Loves in London?
Right now, My Neighbour the Dumpling.