Mughlai cuisine is an astounding legacy left for us Indians by Mughals. This cuisine is famous for its rich blend of spices, flavors, and distinct aroma. The Mughlai cuisine developed in India after Babar initiated the rule of the Mughal Empire in India. The cuisine developed in Medieval India.
It consists of a mix of South Asian cuisine, Central Asian cuisine and Iranian cuisine while being highly influenced by Turko-Persian cuisine of Central Asia. The official language of Mughals was Persian so the names of various dishes were in Persian or derived from Persia.
History of Mughlai Cuisine
Mughal cuisine was started by Babur in India and his autobiography called Baburnama mentions about various Mughlai dishes including Kebabs prepared out of sheep. After him, during the time of his successor, Humayun, the lavish use of nuts, dry fruits, and saffron were incorporated in recipes of sweets, sauces, and rice. Humayun was fond of sherbet, so, beverages with the essence of fruits were being made in royal kitchens. He also sympathized with Hindus so he stopped the use of beef, replaced by the meat of goat, fowl, and venison.
It was the time of Akbar when Mughalai cuisine gained heights. The emperor’s cooks came from different corners of India, most of them were from Rajasthan, and they mixed their cooking styles with Persian flavors as a result of which most distinct and delicious cuisine came into existence.
The most famous of all dishes, from Akbar’s royal kitchen, were Murgh musallam, that is a whole, masala-marinated chicken stuffed with a spice-infused mixture of minced meat and boiled eggs before being slow-cooked, and also Navratan Korma, that is a deceptively delicious dish prepared from nine different vegetables coated in subtly sweet cashew-and-cream sauce. Along with non- vegetarian some vegetarian dishes such as panchema dal (also called as Pancha Ratna dal) also became famous in Mughal royalty.
Shahjahan instructed his cooks to add other spices such as Haldi, jeera and dhaniya to royal recipes to add medicinal properties to food as well as to expand the cuisine. Soon after the establishment of Shahjahan’s rule, virulent flu spread in the city due to which shahi khansamah had to consult shahi hakim to add medicinal beneficial ingredients to make dishes such as stew and biryani.
Nihari and shabdeg also evolved in his empire. Jehangir and Shah Jahan even awarded their khansamah for their unique creations like Aam Panna, Aam ka Lauz and Aam Ka Meetha Pulao.
Aurangzeb focussed more on vegetarian dishes than meat dishes. Qubooli-an elaborate biryani made with rice, basil, Bengal gram, dried apricot, almond, and curd was very famous in his dining. It was his time when hubs of Mughal shifted from Agra and Delhi to cities like Hyderabad and Lucknow.
Even today, some restaurants in Agra use the same spices to maintain the touch of the traditional Mughal era.
COOKING IN MUGHLAI CUISINE
Mughlai cuisine was rich, lavish and extravagant in taste, therefore it required complex and time-consuming recipes. It highly involved the use of sauces, gravies, and curries which were usually made richer by using butter, milk, cream or yogurt. These dishes required an abundance of spices, dried fruits, nuts. In Mughal royalty, they were garnished with edible flowers and foils of precious metals such as gold and silver.
So the distinct and lavishing aroma, the unique garnishing and intriguing names, tempt people to try Mughlai dishes.
Since Mughals were Muslims, they didn’t consume pork and Hindus didn’t consume beef, so these two were not involved in Mughlai dishes. The meat used was usually of goats, fowl, sheep, and venison. Alongside various vegetarian based dishes are also involved in this cuisine.
Popular savory Mughlai dishes are biryani, murgh musallam, pasanda, haleem, malai kofta, Rogan josh, etc. And popular sweet Mughlai dishes are sheer korma, shahi tukra, kheer, barfi, Khiri, faalooda and many more.
POPULAR MUGHLAI DISHES
It is one of the most famous and tempting dishes of Mughlai cuisine. It consists of rice, meat and different aromatic spices and seasonings giving it a flabbergasting taste. There are various varieties of biryani. The most famous is the Hyderabadi biryani, the specialty of Hyderabad Muslims. Other varieties include Sindhi biryani, Malabar biryani, and many more. Tehari, Tahari or Tehri is the vegetarian version of biryani.
It is also known as Khichra or Daleem. The preparation of this is like stew and it consists of wheat, barley, rice, lentils different spices and meat which is generally minced. It requires seven to eight hours of cooking ensuring a blend of all ingredients giving it a paste-like consistency.
It is prepared out of whole wheat flour stuffed with various ingredients such as minced meat, green chili, pepper, eggs and many more. The final product is a delicate soft fried bread which is very famous in Kolkata.
The word Pasanda is derived from Urdu word pasande which means favorite. Traditionally, it is a rich lamb curry. In this dish, the lamb legs are flattened into strips. These strips are then marinated with various spices and yogurt for hours and then the marinated lamb legs are fried with various other ingredients.
It is a very popular dish which is made by Muslims on occasions such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. It is a vermicelli pudding which consists of milk, dates, vermicelli, saffron, cardamom, rose water, sugar and various dry fruits.
It is a simple delicacy that is made usually on Eid and during the month of Ramadan. It includes bread, condensed milk, dry fruits and cardamom seasoning which results in the formation of sweet bread pudding.
It is a kind of rice pudding that is set and served in a shallow earthen dish. This rice-based sweet is garnished with saffron, pistachios and chopped almonds.
Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy-based dessert that probably originated in the 16th century during the Mughal Empire. The term Kulfi is derived from a Persian word which means a covered cup. It is a mixture of thickened milk seasoned with saffron and pistachios that are frozen in a metal cone and later served with faloodeh, a kind of noodles prepared from starch, and garnished with pistachio nuts, saffron and ground cardamom.