Lawyer MR Jan explains why das kulcha used to be popular in Lahore. Since water in the city was very hard, he says, residents ate das kulcha, which contains ingredients like fennel seeds' water and achar which help cure various digestive problems such as constipation.
Das kulcha was one of the most popular breakfast items in Lahore for breakfast until about three decades ago.
According to some aged Lahoris, before Partition people from Amritsar and other adjacent areas especially visited Lahore on weekends to eat das kulcha. Unfortunately, only one baker in the city, Zahid Butt, still bakes this traditional food and the only shop, Chohatta Mufti Baqir inside Mochi Gate, sells it.
Butt runs his business in Chuna Mandi Chowk and informed me that the recipe had been passed down through generations in his family. Apparently, the recipe is closely guarded and never given to outsiders.
Talking about the method of cooking, he said, “We prepare a special vegetarian broth by boiling chick pea pulse (daal channa) and fennel seeds separately for kneading the flour. Then after kneading the flour is ready for baking and we call it khamir which is baked in a specially made burner (bhatti).”
He also makes sure to stay super clean before cooking the das kulcha. “The khamir of das kulcha is very delicate and unhygienic elements like sweat and even the smell of onion and mango can spoil it. That is why before kneading flour we not only clean ourselves but also cover our hands.” This is also why doing wuzu was considered an integral part of cooking.
Butt also talked about lonchra, an item that traditionally accompanies the das kulcha, along with cooked chickpeas, achar and salad. “Lonchra is basically fried gram flour which is fried very carefully in suitable heat.”
He blames the constant migration of people to and from the walled city for the current obscurity of das kulcha.
However, Rahat Dar a photo-journalist whose family has lived in the walled city for many generations begs to differ.
He says after Partition, and the subsequent migration of Hindus, vegetarian items like das kulcha began to die out.