Shortcut Bolani Recipe-- Afghan vegetarian stuffed flatbread
Updated: May 18, 2020
Bolani is a scrumptious large flatbread from Afghanistan traditionally stuffed with a vegetable filling. The fillings most commonly found in bolani are gandana (a type of Chinese chives from Afghanistan), potato and gandana, or pumpkin. As it's often challenging to find gandana readily available in the States, leeks, chives, or green onions are utilized as an alternative substitute.
I love to repurpose the leftovers in our house into new dishes to give them a fresh take and leftover Bolani is one of my go to's, especially in the winter holidays when mashed potatoes are served in abundance. Bolani is traditionally made with dough from scratch, rolled out to an elongated semi-oval shape and pan fried on a large griddle. However, in this recipe, I rely on the ingenuity of leftovers and the ingredients commonly found in my refrigerator for a quick, fresh reinvention of dinner.
In college, I desperately craved Afghan food as a source of comfort and familiarity especially during exam season. Bolani has been a favorite of mine from childhood, and reinventing it became a survival skill. Through the years, the evolution of shortcut bolani has evolved in my kitchen to the form I believe is closest to the original without the time intensive process of making dough from scratch.
When I shared bolani with my husband (who is originally Swahili from Kenya) for the first time, he remarked that it tasted like a stuffed chapati! It's amazing how many cultural overlaps there are across the Eastern hemisphere of a stuffed flat dough. Thus I realized Bolani is a staple food item, cousin to the South Indian dosa, cousin to the Desi aloo paratha, and even possibly a distant relative to the Levantine manakish bread. I love tasting different cultural takes on familiar foods and discovering diasporic* remakes of these classic dishes. I hope you enjoy recreating my diasporic shortcut take on repurposing leftovers into bolani, noshejaan!*
Shortcut Bolani Recipe
4-5 cups mashed potatoes
3 bunches of green onions
1 pack egg roll wrappers
1 c water
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk
I often set aside my leftover mashed potatoes into a ziploc bag, date the bag, and freeze it immediately in my freezer. After the holidays, everyone has eaten so much mashed potatoes they don't want to look twice at them again. By freezing them, I lengthen their shelf life and ensure they'll be a welcome guest at the dinner table when I repurpose them a week or two later.
I also often buy green onions in bulk. I clean, wash, and chop them finely and store them in ziploc bags with a piece of paper towel inside to absorb any additional moisture. I then date these and freeze them to have on hand as I utilize green onions often in cooking. (You can see this in my video on how to to cut green onions https://youtu.be/ml-efLyjkS8 )
I remove my bag of green onions from the freezer, one bag typically holds 3 bunches of green onions chopped. I place a saute pan on the stove top, turn the heat on to high, and add 2 tbsp of oil in the pan alongside the green onions. Cook the green onions until they begin to lose their soggy freezer texture and become similar in texture to regular onions when they are being browned on the stove top (they will slightly wilt and condense in size).
Add frozen mashed potatoes to the saute pan of green onions, lower heat to medium low. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of whole milk as needed to soften the mashed potatoes. I typically begin with 1/4 cup of milk, mix the mashed potato green onions together, and cover with a lid to allow it to steam. After 4-5 minutes of steaming, I remove the lid and stir so it doesn't stick to the pan. If the mashed potatoes still feel too firm, I add 1/4 or 1/3 cup additional whole milk to help achieve a soft consistency. Place the lid back on the pot and allow it to continue to steam for 2-3 minutes.
Once the mashed potato green onion mixture is complete, turn off the stove and set pan aside.
Remove egg roll wrappers from packaging on to a cleared and sanitized countertop. Place about a cup of water in a bowl and set next to egg roll wraps.
Using one egg roll wrapper at a time, wet your index fingers and wipe water over the top half edges of the egg roll wrapper.
Using a spatula, fill the top half of the egg roll wrapper with mashed potato mixture.
Fold empty half of eggroll wrapper over to have edges meet and form a rectangle shape. Seal by pressing along the wet edges. If it is not sealing properly, you have not wet it enough.
Repeat this step until all egg roll wraps are filled. Set aside your tray of stuffed egg roll wrappers.
Heat a griddle or saute pan on high heat with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Placing one stuffed egg roll wrap on at a time, cook until each side is seared golden brown. Flip over the egg roll wrap to cook the other side, then set aside on to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the extra oil. Continue this until all egg roll wraps are cooked.
Serve your shortcut bolani with a side of salted mint yogurt. Noshejaan!*
*the definition for Noshejaan can be found here: https://www.imanistan.com/blog-recipes/afghan-kitchen-talk-terms-101-noshejaan
*diasporic refers to a characteristic from the diaspora, the word diaspora meaning a group of people who have resettled from one country into another, often for involuntary reasons, and hold ties to their country of origin and a relation to their country of origin is a significant part of their identity