Mughal Influences in Indian Cuisine

Posted on 22nd February 2018

A Mughlai Chicken curry

The Mughal Empire ruled India for around three hundred years, founded in 1526 it was established by a Muslim dynasty and combined Islamic, Persian and Mongol culture with Indian. It was a sophisticated civilisation based on religious tolerance, during which time Hinduism and Islam flourished side by side. The empire encouraged trade and travel with the rest of the Islamic world as well as Persia and Europe, the convergence of so many cultures and traditions had a huge influence on society, customs and food – an influence that can still be seen today. 

Who Were the Mughals? 

The empire began when its founder Babur captured Delhi in 1526. Babur began his career in 1494 at the age of 11, when he became the ruler of Ferghana in Turkestan (now Uzbekistan) and spent ten years fighting over Samarkand with rival princes and cousins. In 1504 he became ruler of Kabul (in what is now Afghanistan), with his kingdom growing southwards towards India. As a direct descendent of both Genghis Khan and Timur, Babur felt an ownership of the land and sought to recapture it – Babur’s great-great-grandfather Timur was the founder of the Timurid Empire and a powerful ruler across Western, South and Central Asia in the 14th century. In 1526 Babur took Delhi and Agra from Ibrahim Lodi, ending the Lodi dynasty in a series of battles that began in Lahore as he made the 1000-mile journey from Kabul. 

Global Influence

Despite his ancestry, Babur was a relatively peaceful ruler, and under the 21 emperors who followed him in the Mughal Empire, India was a world leader. The economy was prosperous, in 1600 the GDP was second only to the Ming Dynasty in China and by 1700, India’s economy was the largest in the world. Reopening old trade routes and establishing new lines of export, India traded with much of the world which was hugely instrumental in the spreading of culture and ideas. 

Mughlai Cuisine 

Mughlai cuisine combined cooking styles and recipes of Central Asia and North India, as well as incorporating flavours from Persian and western Asian cookery. Many new dishes were invented for the emperors, combining middle eastern nuts and dry fruits with Indian spices and ingredients to create the Mughlai cuisine. 

Such dishes that were created during the empire, that we still eat today, include Biryani, Korma, Pasanda, Bhuna, Qeema Matar and Gulab Jamun. Of course, other dishes from the era include Mughlai Chicken, Mughlai Paratha, Murg Kababs Mughlai and Murgh Mussllam. 

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