Fresh-baked Punjabi Kulchas remind me why I love bread so much.

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve written about bread or roti or buns of some sort. I’m such a sucker for bread, any kind of bread – whether its silky sheer Indian rotis or crispy Khakhra or floofy Asian buns or poofy Turkish fresh baked triangles or the sweet milky buttery Shirmal I had in Delhi. Or this basket full of Kulcha King’s Punjabi Kulchas…

[Photo credit: Shebanx, who was gracious enough to put his kulcha away and play with my camera so I could learn a thing or two about photography from him.]

Nothing can trump fresh baked hot bread other than…fresh baked hot STUFFED bread.  These flour-based tandoor-baked babies were first popped out in Punjab, where some brilliant bread-loving genius decided to stuff starch in more starch, and create what is now hailed as the traditional potato-stuffed kulcha. Tradition demands that you tear off a piece of the aforementioned glorious kulcha, dunk it into a fiery bowl of chole (chickpea) gravy, and prepare to become a mouth slave to the spicy gravy-drenched potato stuffed bread.

Now Kulcha King doesn’t just shove masala-stuffing into their kulcha, but as thoughtfully dissected by Kook, they sprinkle the surface liberally with what tasted suspiciously similar to salt and lemony chaat masala. It gives you this massive flavor oomph! even before you’ve got to the core of the kulcha.

Of the eight different types of kulcha emerging from the Kulcha King tandoor, here are the ones we tried…

The Potato Kulcha. The traditional way to make a kulcha, stuffed with spiced potatoes that become steamy hot and mushy after the heat blast in the oven.  All I can say is, don’t flout tradition here, because that potato kulcha will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. This was the king of all the kulchas we tried. I’d want to knit a bunch of them together – like thousands of these soft pillowy potato oozing kulchas together – and use the now life-sized kulcha to replace my bedroom down comforter and tuck me into bed each night. Cozy kulcha snooze.

The Special Lacha Stuffed Kulcha. What do you get when you cross a paratha with a kulcha? The Lacha Kulcha, or layered kulcha. The kicker in this one was the crackly thin concentric circles of fried kulcha skin on the outside. Our Punjabi friend and kulcha purist on the table frowned down at this hybrid improvised version of the kulcha. …And then promptly proceeded to crunch into a piece anyway.

The Onion Kulcha. And the Keema Kulcha. I write these two together because nothing about the stuffing – onions in the first, and minced meat in the second, really stood out as being distinctive. You would think that bastardizing any tradition with minced meat would, by definition, make it even more awesome. But I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: THE POTATO KULCHA IS KING.

The Cheese Kulcha. Here we have  a particularly obnoxious violation of sacred kulcha tradition…stuff it with CHEESE. We’re not even talking Indian paneer, this was store-bought cheese. But tradition or not, daaaaamn it was good. They hadn’t gone overboard, just a thin layer of smooth salty, slightly sour cheesiness. And if someone hadn’t once thought of polluting a perfectly good piece of crust with a heap of cheese, we’d never have discovered pizza now would we?

Kulcha insides lined with a thin layer of salty cheese

To wash it all down, a tall glass of thick creamy salted lassi. Not made by sturdy Punjabi hands as tradition would hold, but still as creamy as what you’d expect a mechanized mixer to churn out.

There. I have renewed my vows to bread. Reaffirmed my love. Photographed the heck out of them kulchas. I really should start a new blog as a tribute to bread and bread alone. Or maybe just stop blogging altogether and use the time to…eat more bread.

[Photo credit: Shebanx]

Kulcha King
Phone: + 971 (4) 3278622; +971 (50) 5838381
Behind the Raavi’s on Al Musalla Road, Meena Bazaar, Dubai [check out their website for a map]

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

13 thoughts on “Fresh-baked Punjabi Kulchas remind me why I love bread so much.

  1. accordingtodina says:

    feeling terrible I missed it!!!! Mus drag husband to this soon!!!!! as usual…Lovely post

  2. saleem says:

    Arva, will take you to a place near Charminar when we are together in Hyderabad next (if that place still exists), where we use to have cold sweet thick lassi – flavor of which I still can feel in my mouth when I think of it.

    I also think you must take a month’s vacation from writing about food for Ramadan, as many will get tempted and break their fast thinking of your mouth-watering experiences and photographs.

  3. najla koya says:

    Hungry … and craving for kulchas… Kucha King on the list for the next Dubai visit.. :) .. Lovely write up and snaps as always :) … and I read about that Hyderabadi Biriyani your mom makes and have decided to pester you till you give me some :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @accordingtodina – worry you not, I will be back there for more and you’ll be on my hit list for the next few trips ;)

      @saleem – oh my goodness, YES YES YES TAKE ME!!! I want charminari lassi, this is going to have to happen on our next Hyderabad trip!
      …oh and on your Ramadan plea, how about I only post after iftar when people have broken their fasts? I’m addicted to these obsessive posts about food. :( Fasting and food blogging deprivation together would drive me bonkers (beyond my usual fits of lunacy)

      @najla koya – ah that Biryani. Way to sneaking in the request in my kulcha post, well done girl! Biryani request noted, and will be conveyed to mom…stay tuned ;)

  4. FooDiva says:

    Oh my as much as I try to avoid bread, these kulchas really would be so hard to resist. Potato or cheese? Both I expect. Thanks for sharing. x

  5. kooksfood says:

    Oh my gosh… looking at your photos makes me want more! lol

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @FooDiva – avoid bread?!?!? GASP. Have a kulcha and then we speak again.

      @kooksfood – thanks for coming out that evening! Those kulchas totally made up for the sweaty trek to that little alleyway in the blistering heat. ;)

  6. mustardseedmeadow says:

    I love your blog. You have such great recipes, my mouth is watering just seeing the pictures. Now I have to make something Punjabi to satisfy the craving!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @mustardseedmeadow – thank you! I just hopped over to your blog too, mutual drooling action going on here ;) did you end up making anything Punjabi??

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