India is home to varieties of flatbreads and crepes. Kulcha and Naan are two of the many commonly eaten flatbreads in the Indian Subcontinent. They are highly tempting when eaten along with gravies. Commonly eaten during festivals and ceremonies, they are also available in restaurants all year round.
Originating from Punjab, Kulcha is commonly eaten with a gravy called Chhola and together called Chhola Kulcha.
The difference between Kulcha and Naan is that Naan is made out of wheat flour whereas Kulcha is made out of refined flour.
Comparison Table Between Naan and Kulcha
|Parameters of Comparison||Naan||Kulcha|
|Base flour||Wheat flour||Refined flour|
|Fillings||Doesn’t have any fillings||Filled with spices and mashed potatoes.|
|Leavening agent used||Yeast||Baking powder|
|Other ingredients||Milk, curd, sugar, oil, salt, egg (optional)||Yoghurt, sugar, salt, oil, water, baking soda for dough; vegetables and spices for filling.|
|Variants||Wheat Naan, Butter Naan||Plain Kulcha, Amritsari Kulcha, Onion Kulcha|
What is Naan?
Naan in Old Persian refers to bread. It is one of the most famous flatbreads eaten in many Asian countries like that of India, Indonesia, Myanmar and also the Caribbean. The key ingredients in making the Indian Naan is wheat flour and yeast. Milk and curd are sometimes added to make them softer and bouncy.
It can also be made vegan by using plant alternatives. Roti or Chapatti is unleavened and hence takes lesser cooking time. But in the case of Naan, salt and leavening agents are added and kneaded into a dough and set aside for few hours. It is later rolled into small balls and fed into earthenware made of clay.
Unlike Roti which is cooked on the slightly concave iron griddle Tawa, Naan is predominantly made in the Tandoor from which tandoori cooking gets its name. Once cooked it is topped with butter and seasoned with nigella seeds.
Naan is believed to be invented somewhere between India and Pakistan. The first recorded history of Naan dates back to 1300 AD seen in the notes of Indo- Persian poet Amir Kushrau. Then Naan was cooked at the Mughal Courts in Delhi. They were served in two types as Naan-e-tunuk (light bread) and Naan-e-tanuri (cooked in a tandoor oven). Naan was a staple food during the Mughal era in India accompanied by keema or kebab. It was mostly consumed over the breakfast table.
Over the centuries, Naan spread to countries like Myanmar, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and the Chinese region of Xingjian. And so Naan also reached the Persian Gulf. Naan comes in varieties like that of garlic Naan, Peshawari Naan, Kashmiri Naan, butter Naan, Keema Naan, Laccha Naan, Pudhina Naan, etc, each famous is different regions of India with varying taste because of the ingredients topped with.
What is Kulcha?
Kulcha is a Punjabi flatbread commonly eaten with chhola. It is similar to Naan except that instead of wheat flour, refined flour (maida) is used to make Kulcha. Just like stuffed Naan, mashed potatoes and spices are mixed with the Kulcha dough that has risen.
Here, baking powder and baking soda are used as a leavening agent. The dough is then made into balls which after flattening are baked in earthen-ware made of clay. Butter is spread over to make it taste better and is served with vegetables. Various stuffings, including paneer (cottage cheese), onion, and other vegetables are also used to stuff these Kulchas.
Kulcha, though a typical Punjabi bread has a history that goes back to the Mughals and Nizams. It is believed to be the staple breakfast for Emperors like Shah Jahan. It is also said that he preferred these bread over biryanis during his exile. Kulcha became the official symbol of Asaf Jahi dynasty in Hyderabad region while the rest of the princely states had lions and/or elephants as their identity.
History also states that Mir Qamruddin (a courtier in Mughal court) went to meet his spiritual Guru, the Sufi mystic Hazrat Nizamuddin Aurangabadi after he got appointed as the “Subedar-e-Dakhan”. Hazrat Nizamuddin offered Subedar Kulchas and asked him to eat all that he wanted, knowing he was hungry.
He also prophesized that one-day Qamruddin would be king and that his descendants would rule for seven generations. The prophecy came true and the Nizams who were just governors became one of the richest to rule the Deccan. And so Kulcha replaced Naan in the royal cuisine.
Main Differences Between Naan and Kulcha
- The main ingredient used to make Naan is wheat flour whereas the main ingredient used in making Kulcha is refined flour (maida).
- Kulcha is a very famous bread in Punjabi cuisine whereas Naan is famous in Persian, Indonesian, the Caribbean cuisines as well.
- While Naan may be plain or stuffed, Kulcha is always stuffed with mashed potatoes or other vegetables and spices.
- Naan is leavened with yeast whereas Kulcha is leavened with baking powder.
- Naan requires curd and milk to be made whereas Kulcha doesn’t require milk.
Both Naan and Kulcha are delicacies enjoyed in major parts of the Indian subcontinent and are available in most of its restaurants. It can also be cooked at home. The preparation time required is around one and a half hours (for the dough to leaven) and a cooking time of around 25 mins, rounding to two hours.
The major difference between the two is the key ingredient used. Naan and Kulcha may not be suitable for people who are allergic to dairy as it contains butter and curd/yogurt. Instead, plant alternatives can be used. Though originating from the northern part of India, it is also relished by people in the other parts of the country.