Mughlai food refers to the food which was prepared in the kitchen of the royals of the Mughal Empire. The cuisine is influenced by the Persian cuisine and in turn has affected the cooking styles all over India but especially seen clearly in regions like Punjab and Kashmir. Mughlai food belongs to the South Asian cuisine, where we find extreme variation in the taste and flavor from extreme spicy to extreme light. These varieties of dishes in the main course meal are also accompanied with various kinds of side dishes and the entire meal ends with mouthwatering deserts.
The rich preparation of Mughlai food consisting of various flavored sauces and masalas along with butter based curries is so tempting that food lovers die for more food. Even the names are so special that it enlightens people to try out different dishes. In the old times the kings used to dine with their queens and concubines, except on special occasions like festivals where the king dined with the nobles and the courtiers. The hakim or the royal physician used to overlook the preparation of various dishes to ensure that the royal family consumed food of the highest quality and also planned the menu for the day. Once the menu was decided, the preparation took a lot of time because a lot of dishes were presented in each meal along with sides’ dishes and desserts. The royal kitchen can be pictured as like a market place with a swarm of workers and cooks working hard to prepare the royal meals. The workers also included people who were responsible for bring vegetables and spices and others who were assigned for washing of utensils and other serving materials. The workforce included both men and women and we find that was a systematic division of labour. Historians claim that the water that was used for cooking was actually rainwater mixed with water bought from the Ganges, thus resulting in such tasty dishes. It was also found that the rice was covered by silver oil which aided digestion. Moreover the food given to cattle such as goat, chicken etc were also of high quality so that the medical properties could travel to the eater.
As the emperors changed, they bought in changes in the menu and style of cooking, influenced by Iranian, Afghani and Persian styles with a touch of Deccan. Each emperor had his favourite dish as well. Babur was a great fan of the various fish dishes which were prepared other than that he preferred the dishes available back home in Samarkand. Akbar was a vegetarian by taste only for three times a week and was known to have his own kitchen garden which he watered with rosewater so that the produce smelt good when cooked. During the reign of Shah Jahan, after he shifted his capital from Agra, he was informed that the water in the city was making his subjects sick and so he ordered that more of Haldi which is turmeric powder along with red chilies, cumin and coriander be used in the cooking process because of its medical properties, and the king was credited for adding new spices to the cuisine. Aurangzeb was considered to be a vegetarian for most of the time of his life however it was only later that it was found through a series of letters which he wrote to his son which spoke about his intense love for Qubooli which was a mega biryani rice with Bengal gram, died apricot, curd, basil and almond. The Mughal rulers were very particular about the food they ate and writings indicate various changes and additions they would with them, moreover it also talks about how the kitchen moved with the king when he had to go for wars.
In the 16th century the Mughal had invaded India thereby bringing power, majesty and prosperity in the land. They also bought in exotic spices, fruits and nuts to India giving us or teaching us new techniques in cooking which are followed till today. Among various Mughlai foods, biryanies, pulao and kormas are highly delicious and really loved by many. They basically reflect the Muslim style of cooking which has a lasting effect on the consumers. This type of cuisine is famous not only in our country but can also be seen in the foreign countries like the U.S.A and U.K where we find a huge fan club for this form of Indian cuisine, however back home it is prepared on a very large scale in Delhi, the capital of India. The common ingredients which are used in the preparation of this cuisine are cream and milk. Although there are many in the list but these two items find themselves in very Mughlai dish.
Some of the popular dishes of Mughlai cuisine can be…
- Aloo ka raita which is basically a mixture of curd with potatoes which are boiled and then chopped with various spices like salt and pepper.
- Chicken biryani which a fried rice containing pieces of chicken and flavoured with various spices.
- Chicken tikka and champ masalas where the former is a boneless chicken marinated with lime, curry powder, tomato paste, curd, finely chopped garlic cloves, paprika and baked in the oven while the latter is just a curry of lamb chops.
- Other famous Mughlai dishes are palak panner where paneer is Indian cheese, naan, tandori chicken and kebabs etc.
- Among the famous deserts we have the gulab jamun, kulfi, barfi and the shahi tukra which is nothing but a rice based bread pudding with cardamom and made rich with dry fruits which also stands as a personal favourite of many Indian till date.
A must try cuisine which will make you want more and will force you to lick your fingers after you finish your meal.