Friday, December 9

A peek into royal kitchen to trace Mughal cuisine’s trail

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One theory on how vegetarian dishes entered the Mughlai cuisine is that Mughal emperor Jalal-ud-din Mohammad Akbar would not eat meat during the month he came to power. Fresh vegetables were grown in his garden and a retinue of 400 chefs would prepare different vegetarian dishes for him, which gradually became a part of the cuisine.
n The practice of adding saffron to Mughlai dishes was started by Akbar’s son Humayun, who imported it from Persia where he was in exile for several years.
n Biryani, which is synonymous to royalty, could have come into existence when famine stuck Awadh in 1740s and a melange of vegetables and rice along with some meat was prepared for the labourers building an imambara in Lucknow.

These are some of the anecdotes that emerged from a talk tracing the origin and evolution of Mughlai cuisine.

Shahanshah Mirza, the great great grandson of King Wajid Ali Shah, who otherwise juggles with numbers in the finance department, shared several poignant moments and incidents on the evolution of the Mughlai cuisine with food and heritage connoisseurs of the city while talking at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Friday evening in an event titled ‘The Mughlai Trail — Enthralling Tales of the Royal Cuisine’.

Mughals also gave the country fruits like cherries, apricots, grapes and melons but the love of Mughal rulers for mangoes was legendary. “Once emperor Shahjahan rebuked Aurangzeb for not sending him mangoes from the Deccan. They had private orchards with several varities of mango trees,” Mirza added.

But no other dish has occupied the collective conscience of Indians like biryani and most theories about the origin of the dish are untrue. “During the rule of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah, an Awadh king, famine struck and people lost their livelihoods. He came up with the idea of building a grand imambara, which still exists in Lucknow as a work for food programme. The workers were fed once a day and to provide them all nutrition, and avoid cooking several dishes, large cauldrons were filled with rice, meat, vegetables and spices and cooked in dum pukht style. One day, the king was visiting the place when he happened to taste the dish, which he liked immensely. He summoned his chefs and suggested certain modifications and that is how biryani is said to have come into existence,” said Mirza.

These are some of the anecdotes that emerged from a talk tracing the origin and evolution of Mughlai cuisine.

Shahanshah Mirza, the great great grandson of King Wajid Ali Shah, who otherwise juggles with numbers in the finance department, shared several poignant moments and incidents on the evolution of the Mughlai cuisine with food and heritage connoisseurs of the city while talking at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Friday evening in an event titled ‘The Mughlai Trail — Enthralling Tales of the Royal Cuisine’.

Mughals also gave the country fruits like cherries, apricots, grapes and melons but the love of Mughal rulers for mangoes was legendary. “Once emperor Shahjahan rebuked Aurangzeb for not sending him mangoes from the Deccan. They had private orchards with several varities of mango trees,” Mirza added.

But no other dish has occupied the collective conscience of Indians like biryani and most theories about the origin of the dish are untrue. “During the rule of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah, an Awadh king, famine struck and people lost their livelihoods. He came up with the idea of building a grand imambara, which still exists in Lucknow as a work for food programme. The workers were fed once a day and to provide them all nutrition, and avoid cooking several dishes, large cauldrons were filled with rice, meat, vegetables and spices and cooked in dum pukht style. One day, the king was visiting the place when he happened to taste the dish, which he liked immensely. He summoned his chefs and suggested certain modifications and that is how biryani is said to have come into existence,” said Mirza.

Source: Times of India

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