300237 Mughalia

The “Mughalia” food trail

My last trip to Delhi left me with a lot of questions and emotions. Delhi and the influence of Mughal Emperors on Cuisine has been my subject of interest of late and that has me looking at both “Dilli” and “Delhi” food in a newer, sort of eager manner. The first question that props up in my mind is about the word Mughlai (or Mughalia as it should be).
All Moghul emperors had very varied tastes and were inclined towards different places as their bases. Akbar was based out of either battle or Fatehpur Sikri in his later days, turning pure vegetarian. Jehangir preferred Kashmir. Aurangzeb spent most of his time in Deccan and chose simple eating habits as is. So the only emperor who can be credited to patronizing both Delhi and Haute cuisine is Shahjehan.

Now let’s look at Lahore from the point of view of patronization by the Moghuls and we see where the country was ruled from. Lahore has seen more “Mughal time” than Delhi. So if we look at cuisine that underlays all Nawabi and Nizami cuisine of Lucknow, Murshidabad and Hyderabad it’s the Mughalia cuisine that has a lot of Influence of Lahore. Yet in my mind it doesn’t take away anything from the Cuisine of Delhi. So what’s Delhi food?

For starters it’s the best barrack cuisine in the world if I may say. Food and culture around Red fort in particular and Shahjehanabad in general is a perfect example of how intermingling of cultures by virtue of either assault, rule, sufism or immigration can create something as beautiful as “Dastarkhwaan-e-Dilli” . Delhi cuisine lived in the barracks of Red Fort, Feasts of the sufis, Havelis of Moghul officers, Kayasth joint families and the mansions of the Baniyas of Chandni Chowk. Until 1911 happened and Delhi became the modern India’s Capital…

This brought in the Raj cuisine and the Dining room culture in Connaught Place, creating a lovely contrast to Shahjehanabad cuisine (if I may use that term). Then Lahore came back to Delhi and along came the tandoor and Turko-Afghan influences along with the partition….changing the face of Delhi cuisine again… a trend that continues till today making it India’s Food capital. A big salute to a big city with a big heart……


  1. This is fascinating! As a food writer in Singapore with an interest in food history, this is completely fascinating and new to me. I've just stumbled onto your blog and look forward to reading your posts!

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