Rola Wala Leeds: Meet the founder of the street food business that's a cornerstone of Trinity Kitchen

Inspired by street food flavours discovered on Kolkata backstreets, Bombay beaches and Keralan waterways, Rola Wala serves Indian food with a vibrant and healthy twist.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 30th April 2022, 4:30 pm

Aussie-born Mark Wright opened his permanent eatery in Trinity Kitchen in 2016, when the street food movement was still finding its feet in Leeds.

He flicked on the lights to instant acclaim and Rola Wala is now a cornerstone of the shopping centre's food hall.

Born in Perth to a British family, Mark grew up eating Sunday roasts every week - but was a picky eater.

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Mark Wright, 39, is the founder of Indian street food kitchen Rola Wala (Photo: Simon Hulme)

The 39-year-old said: "It was a traditional British household and didn’t have an interest in cooking at that age.

“It was when I moved to the UK that I discovered food. Before that, I didn’t even like mushrooms.”

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After moving to the UK 13 years ago, Mark worked in marketing while living in a flat above a food market in London.

Mark was inspired to quit his job and set up the business after a trip to India (Photo: Simon Hulme)

It was there that he discovered food from around the world, before a trip to India sparked a big idea.

“The food in India was completely different from the curries I’d eat two or three times a week here," Mark said.

"It was light, healthy and colourful. I’d eat a lot there - four or five times a day as I was walking a lot - and I felt really great."

When he returned from his travels, Mark phoned up his boss and told them he wasn't returning to work.

Rola Wala mixes authentically-spiced fillings with fresh salads and bold flavours (Photo: Simon Hulme)

“I locked myself up in the kitchen on my fourth floor and learnt how to cook," he said.

"It was really organic, there was no real drive to have a massive business. I just wanted to do something I felt was good.”

Mark spotted a gap in the market for health-conscious Indian food with a twist.

With no professional training, he wasn't bound by culinary rules, and developed a brand that mixes authentically-spiced fillings with fresh salads and bold flavours - sharp pickles, herbs and greens, fresh chutneys and crunch.

After testing his brand on hungry passers-by in London, he launched a pop-up in Trinity Kitchen.

Demand went through the roof and he was soon invited to open Rola Wala's first permanent home.

Rola Wala customers can build their own naan rolls or bowls - with six fillings on offer, including the best-selling chicken tikka and the vegan red channa dal.

The latter dish was created after Mark paired dal with beetroot and salad while he was in India.

"That’s the kind of spin I put on things," he said.

"Most chefs go to a cookery school and learn how to make a great dal or steak, but I've never learnt the rules."

For every naan roll sold, Rola Wala provides a school meal for a hungry child living in poverty, in partnership with organisation One Feeds Two.

"It costs us money, but it does a huge amount of good," Mark added.

“With all that’s happened over the last two years, it’s people that keep me going with the business.

"As you grow the business, you realise the value of making it a place that people want to be - that’s for the customers or staff."

How to make Rola Wala's overnight nagaland pulled lamb

Make your own Rola Wala naan rolls at home with Mark's famous Nagaland Lamb.

The recipe has a few interesting ingredients, but they are all available at your local supermarket and the process couldn’t be easier.

Get creative with your naan rolls.

Buy some pre-made naan from the supermarket, or a local Indian restaurant, with fresh coriander, red onion, tomato, Greek yogurt, lemon juice.

You can even use fruit like fresh mango. Mark recommends chilli and tomato chutney to give it some much-needed sweetness. Do not use tomato sauce as it will overpower the flavours.

This recipe is enough for 10-15 servings, making it perfect for a large family, or you can divide it up and keep it in the fridge or freezer for next time.

STAGE ONE

Ingredients:

- Large joint of lamb shoulder (bone in) approx. 3kg

- Rapeseed oil 50ml

- Meat rub 35g

Note: you can use a supermarket meat rub with a high salt content. Or you would like to make your own here is a simple recipe (you will need 35g of this mix for this recipe):

- Salt 40g

- Sugar 40g

- Ground cumin 1tsp

- Ground coriander 1tsp

- Garam masala 1tsp

- Chilli powder 1/2 tsp

- Turmeric 1/2 tsp

- Smoked paprika 1/4 tsp

Process:

1. Pre-heat oven to 275c, fan on. Ensure that it is up to temperature before placing the lamb in the oven.

2. Using sharp knife, remove any large pieces of fat from the lamb.

3. Place lamb into baking tray, cover with meat rub and oil, and place it in the pre heated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the lamb is crispy dark brown on the outside.

STAGE TWO

Ingredients:

- Rapeseed Oil 50ml

- Vinegar 300ml

- Water 300ml

- Garam Masala 2tsp

- Black Mustard Seeds 2tsp

- Cumin seeds 2tsp

- Fenugreek seeds 1/2 tsp

- Garlic – 1 bulb, separate cloves and crushed

- Hot sliced chilli (Birdseye work well) 1-5

- Large thumb of ginger, diced

- Sliced brown onions, 8 medium

- Table salt 10g

Process:

1. While the lamb is cooking, combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Remove seared lamb from the oven, and turn the oven down to 100c, leave the door open for 5 minutes to cool it down quickly

3. After 5 minutes, place onion mix into baking tray, covering the lamb. Tightly wrap the tray in tin foil, try to get a tight seal to minimise liquid escaping during the cooking process. Place it inside the oven at 100c for 12 hours.

4. Remove the lamb and let it rest for up to an hour.

5. Remove foil, gently shred the lamb and serve.

Need a quicker cook?

We recommend an overnight cook, but if you don’t have 12 hours, you can place the lamb in the oven for 4 hours at 220c in the second stage.