For the Love of Indian Breads


The Indian palette was never designed for the love of pizza. But as the western exodus happened, the new generation took to everything which was not Indian. So did I, but ran out of steam when the taste felt bland. Nothing beats the love of the naan, paratha and all the other beautiful combinations that are derived from wheat and its various forms.

A recent visit to Pune made me discover puran poli , a wonderful paratha stuffed with jaggery and gram lentils, soaked overnight and then finely ground to make a paste filling, just enough done to make the paratha delectable.

So India is spoilt for bases of all kinds.  As a nation, we thrive on bread assortments. And in the midst of the regions of India, there is the authentic kulcha.

An understated role to play in the kitchen, the authentic Amritsari kulcha has been a staple diet for centuries. It has been a creation of the Indian subcontinent but did not get its due. The kulcha has its antecedents from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization and has somewhere become a part of the Indian diet in later years.  Essentially eaten in its baked form, it comes across as a dry bread- maybe one reason today, it is confined to the roadside vendors selling it slightly buttered and done with matra or chickpea variant to go with.

The leavened bread magically turns out from a clay oven and is ready to go with any kind of Indian curry.  Its dough can be made fluffier with the amount of leavening altered. The process is a simple addition of yeast or any other fermenting agent, a method used to make fried bhaturas as well.

The kulcha has a versatile characteristic still. Households who enjoy it team it with any kind of Indian curry. For the authentic one, Chola is still the preferred combination.  I discovered this son-mother duo that has Indianised this Indian bread for keeps.

 Using the mother’s age-old tried and tested recipes and condiments, the Bahls, have founded the Koolcha brand, a trademarked brand with condiments like Koolfi, Kooleeza, Vada Koolcha, and Chicken Choudhary also having found a trademark on them. Priced between Rs. 79 to 149/-, the variety also includes their signature cold sweet offering of kulfi aka Koolfi and drinks.

 They have a cute collection of 15 dishes to start with. All the recipes have originated from Sunila Bahl’s kitchen- that is a mean feat indeed.

The Punjabi acumen is something you cannot beat, when it comes to food and its condiments. Gaurav and Sunila Bahl pride in that culture and used their deep roots into the authentic styled Punjabi cooking, “an art which is slowly dying with generations not having the time or energy to learn the nuances of it,” shares the nostalgic and elated senior Bahl.

Spices have a huge role to play in Indian cooking. The Bahls continue to use that tradition to design the kulchas into various forms of delectable delights.  Most of the clientele come back for simply ‘that Indian taste’.

Even today, if you go towards Amritsar, (my trip was an eye-opener to the array of food), the kulchas has taken the form of a stuffed naan, laden with melting butter. By the time it hits you, you have already taken in one or two helpings and the feeling is blissful.

Article by – : Uttara J Malhotra

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