Bolani (also spelled as Bulani or Boulanee sometimes) is the Farsi word for “filled bread” and is an unleavened and stuffed turnover style flatbread from Afghanistan. It is vegan and can be either savory or sweet, and commonly used fillings include fillings spinach, red lentils, pumpkin, chives (gandana) potato and onions or potato and chives or spring onions/ scallion.
Afghanistan being geographically located on the historically important trade route called the Silk Route/ Silk Road meant that Afghani cuisine shows influence of other presences on that trade route including Iran, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China.
So it is not surprising that there is a lot that Afghani cuisine has with North Indian cuisine in the spices that are used as well as many of the dishes including the Naan. Yet Afghani food is distinct in its personality.
The Bolani is unique to Afghanistan, and is not only a much loved streetfood but also served in homes as an appetizer or as a side dish at special events and parties. Bolani is typically served with a green coriander/ cilantro chutney called Chatni Gazneesh and a mint flavoured thick yogurt (Chakkah) sauce/ dip.
Bolani e Katchaloo is the version of the flatbread that is filled with mashed and seasoned potato. Sometimes the potato filling includes chives or spring onions and sometimes it doesn’t. The Bolani is somewhat like the Indian stuffed flat bread called paratha, and the Bolani e Katchaloo in particular is similar to the Indian Aloo Paratha. So you might be forgiven for thinking that both are probably two versions of the same food, but it is not so.
Though both are filled with mashed potato, the taste of the filling and so the flatbreads are distinctly different. For one, Indian parathas are made with wholewheat flour while the Afghani Bolani is made with plain/ all-purpose flour. The seasoning in the filling makes the Bolani much milder in taste than the Paratha.
Aloo Parathas are usually round in shape because the outer whole wheat wrapper is enclosed around the filling, then the flatbread is rolled out and then pan-fried to cook. The Bolani on the other hand is shaped like a turnover by folding the dough over the filling into a half-moon shape and sealed. It is then pan-fried as well, but flattened out some more in the pan while it cooks.
I never knew about the Afghani Bolani until a discussion on Facebook (where else?) about something brought a comment from my cousin-in-law mentioning the Bolani as a stuffed flatbread somewhat like the Aloo Paratha yet different.
That had me looking into what it was and how to make it. The next thing my family knew was that they were having it for lunch and enjoying it very much too. While the Bolani itself is a very tasty flatbread, it is the combination of the Bolani with the spicy green coriander chutney and cool soothing yogurt dip/ sauce that makes this so satisfying.
So if you are looking for a stuffed flatbread that isn’t very strong on spices yet not bland, filling and not requiring too much effort or time in the kitchen then this one should satisfy those criteria. Most people are sure to like it, and who doesn’t like the potato however disguised it comes? I must also mention that Bolanis make for an excellent alternative to a sandwich or a lunchbox item.
If you are new to the world of filled flatbreads or just want a more visual explanation, this video on how Bolanis are made should be useful. My recipe below has been adapted from various sources, too many to mention or credit.
Afghani Bolani/ Boulanee e Katchaloo (Potato Spring Onion Turnovers or Stuffed Flatbread.
Afghani Bolani/ Boulanee e Katchaloo (Potato Spring Onion Turnovers or Stuffed Flatbread) with Chatni Gazneesh (Coriander Chutney) & A Minty Chakkah (Yogurt Sauce)
For the dough:
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups water so of ( more or less as you require)
- 1 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 2 potatoes medium to large
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp black pepper ground
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/3 cup coriander leaves cilantro finely chopped fresh /
- 1/2 c scallions finely chopped (both the white and green parts)
- Make the filling first. Boil the potatoes with a bit of salt until theyu2019re done and soft. Put them in a largish bowl and aad the salt, oil, black pepper and coriander powders. Mash the potatoes really well, so no lumps remain.
- Add the chopped coriander and the spring onions and mix well. Keep aside.
- Now make the dough. Do this by hand or machine. Put the flour salt and oil in the processor bowl. Slowly add 1 cup of water and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough, adding as much more of water as required.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for about an hour.
- Now make the Bolani. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Work with one portion at a time, keeping the others covered so they do not dry out. Take one portion and roll into a smooth ball. Flour your working surface lightly and roll out the ball of dough into a round (like a tortilla) of about 10u201d to 12u201d in diameter. A thinner round of dough is desirable.
- Dvide your filling into 8 portions and place one portion of the filling on one half of the round (forming a semi-circle of filling) leaving about 1/4u201d at the edge for sealing. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon shape and press the edges with your fingers, to seal well. I used the tines of a fork to make the edges look pretty but this is not usual.
- Repeat this with the rest of the dough and filling to make 8 Bolani. Pour about 1/8ththe oil in a shallow frying pan. When it is hot enough place one Bolani in it. The oil around the Bolani should sizzle. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook the Bolani on both sides by pressing down with a spatula on and off so that it flattens a little more.
- When done (should take about a couple of minutes), the Bolani should a golden brown on both sides. Let the Bolani drain on paper towels.
- Add more oil when necessary and repeat this with the other 7. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with the Chatni Gazneesh and some Mint Chakkah (the recipes follow).