There are things that you just can’t separate from the place of their origin…katlama is one such thing when you think of Lahore and traditional Pakistani cuisine! Lahore is the city of gardens, city of mosques, city of shrines and the city of food. At the heart of Lahore is the shrine of Ali Hajvery , also known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, a persian sufi scholar whose name means ‘ the master who bestows treasures’. Thousands of people travel everyday from other cities – near and far-off – to visit the shrine and pray for their small and big, fair and unfair, legal and illegal wishes to come true. Free food is distributed among hundreds of homeless people and needy travellers.
Right next to the shrine are two roadside food stalls selling katlama and a few other low-priced snacks for as long as I remember. People throng around those stalls at all times as bees would around honey!
What is katlama? It’s a gigantic flat bread, covered with red chilli paste and then deep fried. It resembles pizza a lot ! The smaller one weighs 1+1/2 kg and is 2+1/2 feet in diameter. The bigger one, which is made only on special occasions and festivals is 4 feet in diameter. These are fried in equally huge, flat bottomed woks.
This very red and very big roti-looking bread always fascinated me as a child…I thought one had to be really hungry to eat that big a pizza! Then I finally realised that you could buy that by weight …these days they sell it for 180 rupees a kilo, which is still very inexpensive considering that at least 3 to 4 hungry people can share a I kg piece of this tasty, fried bread.
It’s also prepared now all over rural Punjab during local festivals. If you want to try this delicious bread at home, here is my recipe for Katlama