What is a Kulcha? A kulcha is a popular flat-bread made of wheat flour. It is baked in a traditional tandoor (an Indian clay oven), basted with butter and often served with chole (a chickpea curry) and a generous dollop of salted butter as garnish.
Amritsar, a city in the Northern state of Punjab (India) is well-known for their kulchas. An endless variety of kulchas have emerged from this region ranging by various stuffings. At Kulcha King restaurant itself, you have a choice between 9 different kulcha stuffings including vegetarian and non-veg options.
Kulcha King entered the UAE market just over 2 years ago, and has seen an impressive growth. The restaurant currently has 10 restaurants across Dubai (and one in Sharjah), and their latest branch is located on the ground floor of Flora Hotel (Barsha, Dubai right next to Mall of the Emirates).
We were invited to dinner at Kulcha King’s Flora Hotel branch last Thursday, and let me tell you their menu expands well beyond kulchas alone!
Unlike the other branches, the decor at Kulcha King in Flora Hotel is neat, minimalist and modern. I rather missed the loud, quirky Punjabi feel they have in their JLT branch (do check it out, they even have an Indian lorry in there!).
Being a Thursday night, the restaurant was packed. Kulcha King at Flora Hotel caters to both walk-ins and a regular influx of hotel guests who also have breakfast here (Kulcha King’s buffet breakfast costs AED 75 per person).
Kulcha King specializes in traditional North Indian Amritsari cuisine, and no points for guessing their signature dish… kulchas ofcourse!
We started off our meal with three very different drinks.
The green drink is the Pudina Sarbat, an Indian take on the popular mix of lemonade with mint. The pale yellow is the ever-popular Punjabi Mango Lassi, a thick, decadent shake consisting of sweet mango pulp and yogurt.
The deep red drink was something completely new to us. The staff tell us its a very traditional Amritsari drink called Gajjar Ki Kanji. It owes its gorgeous deep purple-red color to beetroot. Beetroot and carrot is soaked overnight and tempered with mustard seeds. It is then juiced with the addition of fresh radish. The drink has the characteristic heat of radish, and accentuated with the sharp edginess of black salt. The drink is all at once light and full of heat, and has a few pieces of carrot floating within. A healthful drink that is a must-try for adventurous taste-buds.
And here is what we had for our round of appetizers:
The Gilafi Sheekh Kebab is one of Kulcha King’s specialty dishes. ‘Gilaf’ translates to ‘cover’. A beautifully spiced mixture of chicken mince and ricotta cheese is baked in the tandoor oven, and then ‘covered’ with finely chopped onion and capsicum to create these deliciously aromatic sheekh kebabs. The kebabs were very tender and juicy, and the marriage of flavors makes this appetizer an authentically good North Indian treat.
The Machchi Koliwada is essentially battered fish fillet pieces. The coating is a vibrant brick red owing to the fiery mix of spices, and add a dip of the fresh mint chutney on the side, and you have a delicious explosion of flavors.
The Aloo Angara was our only vegetarian appetizer, and oddly enough (given we are such carnivores), it was our favorite! These cleverly cooked tubes of potato have their outer parameters beautifully pan-fried and re stuffed with a delectable mix of mildly spiced vegetables and ricotta cheese. Simply delish!
After this delicious introduction to Amritsari cuisine, I was really looking forward to the mains.
Here is a shot of the first round of mains to hit the table:
The Lacha Paratha is a well-known flat-bread from the Indian subcontinent. Made of wheat flour, the dough is rolled in many layers of clarified butter to give it the characteristic crispy outer, and layered soft inner that just disintegrate in the hands when eaten. They are the perfect accompaniment for sopping up Indian curries.
The paratha went beautifully well with the Chicken Makhni, more popularly known as ‘Butter Chicken’. The Butter Chicken at Kulcha King is semi-sweet, and full on rich, creamy goodness. The curry is more savored than the actual chicken pieces!
The Dal Makhani looks very similar to the chicken. This is a very popular Punjabi lentil dish that is slow-cooked with generous dollops of butter and cream. Definitely not diet food, the Dal Makhani at Kulch King was my favorite main dish from the night. Just look at how thick and rich it is:
The Amritsari Fish is yet another one of Kulcha King’s specialty dishes. The tender pieces of fish fillet are served in a mildly spiced gravy that includes a generous amount of capsicum. This was my husband’s favorite dish from the night, which is saying alot given he detests seafood!
When dining at Kulcha King, how can we not have a kulcha? We shared a Mixed Vegetable Kulcha.
The kulcha comes accompanied with a light chole (chickpea curry) and a wonderfully tangy tamarind chutney that has chopped onion and carrot mixed in.
The kulcha was crisp and flaky on the outside, and that melting knob of salty butter just dripped all over the bread. Forget your calories, this kulcha is to die for! Given we had so many other dishes on the table, I shared this kulcha with hubby but will definitely have to be back for more!
Kulcha King also does a very delicious Amritsari Chicken Biryani. Not only does the dish look beautiful, but it is infused with saffron and other aromatic spices and the chicken pieces are very moist and tender. We were not expecting such good biryani from a restaurant specializing in kulcha!
After our round of mains, we were more than full yet how can you say no to Indian desserts?
Moong Dal Halwa is a ‘halwa’ made from moong beans that is cooked to paste and tediously reduced into a halwa consistency over low flame with generous spoonfuls of clarified butter.
Gulab Jamun is arguably the Indian subcontinent’s most recognized sweet treat. Made of ricotta cheese that has been deep-fried and dunked in rose-flavored sugar syrup, Gulab Jamun has a major fan following.
Kulcha King’s Gulab Jamun is moist and flavorful, and is stuffed with pistachio!
Phirni is an Indian version of rice pudding. Unlike the Western counterparts, Phirni is made of ground rice and slow-cooked till the milk reduces into a thick, creamy consistency. Kulcha King revamps the humble Phirni with the addition of saffron. The dish takes on a beautiful shade of bright yellow, and I love how it is served in a traditional clay pot.
The other dessert to be served in a clay pot was Kulcha King’s Rabdi. Rabdi is essentially slow-cooked milk. The milk is reduced to a thick, creamy richness that is enhanced with cardamom and sugar. This is one rich, decadent treat!
When dining at Kulcha King, leave the calorie counter behind. Amritsari cuisine is rich, decadent and flavorful and goes well beyond kulcha alone!
Kulcha King’s menu has a separate section called ‘China King’. Here the restaurant lists its Indo-Chinese dishes. In Karama, they even have a stand-alone restaurant under the ‘China King’ banner. Will have to try this out another time!
Kulcha King has 10 branches across Dubai, and one in Sharjah. Find a branch near you, and treat yourself to Amritsari goodness today! Call 800 KULCHA for details.