Everything you would love to know about Mughlai cuisine!
You might come across absolutely delicious Biryani, mouth-watering kebabs and other delicacies but did you know that these delicacies come under Mughlai cuisine? Well, in this article not only I will be discussing some of the globally acknowledged dishes from Mughlai cuisine but also the history behind the development of this cuisine, so dig in!
As the name suggests, this cuisine was developed during the medieval period in India when the Mongols were ruling a good part of modern India and also parts of Modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mongols were the rulers from Central Asia and therefore the cuisine which developed in the parts of India ruled by them combined the flavours from India as well as from their native region and the result? The aromatic combination of flavoured rice and meat which is popularly known as Biryani, melting Kebabs, Malai Kofta, Rezala and Murg Masalam to name a few. Till date, it has been the must-try cuisine for the gastronomic enthusiasts across the world and for foreigners, it is a must try Indian cuisine.
Developed in the shahi or the royal kitchens, the Mughal empire began in 16th century with Babur being the first ruler. His autobiography named ‘Babarnama’ actually contains some recipes of Kebabs made from sheep meat. Prior to the Mughal rule, several Muslim dynasties ruled Delhi which included rulers from Turkey and Afghanistan and these dynasties left their own mark on the cuisine such as the use of skewers, tandoors (oven made from mud or clay), naan (Indian bread), Kebab and Keema (minced meat) and Mughals incorporated these existing delicacies into their own and created the Mughlai cuisine. Since Persian was the court language, several Mughlai dishes bear Persian names till date.
Places where you can find the traces of authentic Mughlai cuisine
The Mughlai cooking traditions can be traced to the modern day Bangladesh and Pakistan, Old Delhi, Awadh (which created its own Awadhi cuisine by combining its local delicacies and Mughlai cooking techniques) and Hyderabad. In Pakistan or Karachi to be more specific, the Mujahirs - the group of Muslims that migrated to Pakistan post-partition are known to make authentic Mughlai dishes.
Mughlai Cuisine Quirks!
Mughals or the Mongols as British would call them were Muslims and therefore they did not consume Pork and since cow was holy to Hindus, the meat-eating Hindus will not consume beef and therefore, in the Mughlai cuisine, you will not find these two types of meat making an appearance. The meats used in the dishes belonged to fowls, deer, sheep and goats. Also, the cuisine utilises a large number of dairy products such as cream, butter, ghee and milk which gives a unique creamy texture to the curries thus making the foodies lick their fingers off! The dishes used the famed Indian spices such as cardamom, cloves, pepper and cinnamon etc in both grounded and whole form and thus lending a unique aroma to the dishes.
If you are vegetarian, then worry not because there are vegetarian dishes in Mughlai cuisine such as paneer pasanda, palak kofta etc. you can always expect to see a generous portion of dry fruits such as cashew nuts, almonds and dried grapefruit.
Usually the dishes feature on the heavier side because of the rich content but as time passed by, several experiments were conducted and now, there are dishes which capture the same taste but with low-fat content for those who would love to savour the taste of Mughlai cuisine but cannot digest the super-rich contents or are conscious of their waistlines. Apart from the curries and kebabs and naans, Mughlai cuisine also has several rich desserts such as Shahi tukda, Sheer korma which is a staple sweet dish in any Muslim household made during the Eid, kulfi which is the summer special dessert enjoyed by many and firni (a creamy dessert by mixing cooked rice and milk).
Dishes - the star of the Cuisine
Following are some of the most popular dishes one can find in the Mughlai cuisine.
– In simple words, it is a mixture of rice and meat marinated in a mix of spices cooked together but that’s where the simplicity ends because it takes years to perfect the art of making Biryani and also these recipes are passed down to the generations and all efforts are made to keep the recipe within the family. Take any Indian city, you will find a Biryani made by different techniques and spices but till date, the Hyderabadi Biryani is the most famous one. Tehari is the vegetarian version of Biryani developed for the Hindu bookkeepers of the Muslim Nawabs and other wealthy men.
– Also known as Khichra in other parts of India, it is essentially a mix of lentils and minced mutton. At times, even rice is also used. If you want to taste the best variety, then head the streets of Old Delhi during the month of Ramzan and you will taste a piece of heaven!
A delectable soft fried Indian bread filled a filling of minced meat, eggs, chopped onions, green chilli and pepper among various other things. It is one of the few dishes which reached Bengal and is one of the favourite snacks sold in the streets of Kolkata as well as in Bangladesh.
As I had mentioned before, there are vegetarian dishes for those who do not dig into the meat and this dish is perfect for those. Navratan means nine gems and this dish is made from nine different vegetables and now paneer is also included. The gravy is aromatic and has a heavy dose of cream, milk and ghee.
Shahi means royal and this dish is absolutely royal when it comes to quality and taste. Prepared during the Islamic festivals such as Eid, this dish consists of bread, condensed milk and seasoned with cardamom and at times, a thin silver sheet known as varq is used to garnish the dish.
So this was about some chosen dishes and the specialities if Mughlai cuisine but nothing can exceed the real experience. So if you are planning a trip to India, take out few days to discover the wonders of Mughlai cuisine right in the by lanes of Lucknow, Delhi and other regions.