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.