Bolani is Afghan unleavened bread stuffed with any number of fillings, typically potatoes, or gandana (akin to leeks). Not quite turnover, not quite crepe, or quesadilla, it’s in a category all its own, and completely worth knowing about.
The De Afghanan Kebab House, a hole-in-the wall along the strip known as “Little Kabul” in Fremont, makes the best bolani we know. Watching the cooks roll out, fill and brown the big, beautiful bolani is worth a road trip. You can also find bolani sold by the folks at East West Gourmet Foods, who set up shop at many of the Bay Area farmers’ markets and sell at Whole Foods.
We’ve taken some liberties with the recipe here. Making the bolani dough from scratch requires elbow grease, along with an investment of time many of us don’t have. Using tortillas is a doable short cut. The sweet potatoes are also a departure from the norm. The sweet, tender flesh of the potatoes marry well with cilantro and scallions.
Bolani are best hot out of the sauté pan, when they are still brown and crispy. Serve them cut in half as an appetizer or tucked in a lunchbox along with a spoonful of yogurt.
Sweet Potato and Cilantro Turnover: Bolani
1 pound sweet potatoes
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions, white and light green parts
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons water
6 6-inch flour tortillas
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Roast the sweet potatoes in the oven until very tender. The time will vary depending on the size of the potatoes.
Cut the potatoes in half, scoop out the flesh and put it into a medium bowl. Discard the skin. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the sweet potatoes along with the cilantro, scallions, and salt. Mash with a fork until thoroughly combined. You can make this ahead of time and keep it refrigerated until ready to use.
In a small dish, mix together the flour and water to make a paste. Set a tortilla on your work surface and spread ¼ cup of the potato mixture on the tortilla, leaving a half-inch border around the rim. Using your finger spread a small amount of the paste around the edge of half of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla over, encasing the potatoes into a half circle. Press the two sides of the tortillas together firmly to form a tight seal.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Brown the bolani, two at a time, until golden on both sides. The bolani should sizzle when they hit the pan. Lay cooked bolani on a paper towel. These are best served warm but are tasty at room temperature.
Serve with plain yogurt.
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