Northern India Moghul Cuisine

Northern India Moghul Cuisine

Think of Northern India and you think Moghul. Think Moghul and you are thinking of the Taj Mahal. This wonder of the world, built as a memorial to an emperor's wife, epitomizes Moghulai superlatives. Another legacy of those heady days, and a wonder of the culinary world, is classic north Indian Moghulai cuisine.

India's most fabulous dynasty began at the time of the English Tudors, and remained all-powerful for some 200 years, in the hands of just six emperors, known as the Great Moghuls. Everything they did was magnificent. Their army consisted of 100,000 heavily armed men, 10,000 camels, 5,000 cannon and 1,000 war elephants, and was invincible. Their rule, though austere for their subjects, created great wealth and a luxurious lifestyle for themselves. Opulence at court was displayed in exaggerated robes, oversized jewels, huge harems of 1,000 women and their eunuch guards, elephant jousting, massive parades, ostentatious parties. Their four great cities of Srinagar, Lahore, Delhi and Agra were unparalleled in their forts, palaces, gardens, mosques and mausoleums - as is witnessed Agra's Taj Mahal, built by Emperor Shah Jehan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz after her premature death.

Food did not escape Moghul attention. Northern Indian cuisine has been evolving for thousands of years, but Moghulai chefs took it to the heights of perfection, matching the savories of the Punjab with the aromatics of Kashmir, while creating a creamy delicacy which remains, to this day, distinctly Moghul. Great banquets were frequently held at court, and non one was more important than the emperor's personal chef. It is said that the Emperor Akbar's inner court was composed of just nine advisors, known as the Navrattan, of which the chef was one, along with the prime minister, senior general, physician, astrologer, musician, poet, artist and biographer. True or not, Moghulai cooking has not been bettered since those days, and it is the backbone of all cooking in the modern Indian restaurant.

Here are some of the best classical North Indian Moghulai recipes. Their ingredients and spices are widely available, and are easy to prepare and cool.

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Edible Gold or Silver Leaf (vark) : The Moghul emperors used to garnish dishes such as korma, biriani and sweets with gold or silver leaf. Although it looks exotic, it is absolutely tasteless, but the Moghuls, it is said, believed it to be an aphrodisiac! Beware of cheap imitations, which contain aluminum.

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