Category: Mughlai Cuisine

Hyderabadi Biryani

Hyderabadi Biryani
Mughlai Cuisine

Hyderabadi Biryani

A centuries old recipe of rice slow cooked with goat meat, onions, yoghurt, lemon and coriander as well as numerous exotic spices and aromatics, all meticulously measured. Famous for its aroma, the ingredients include botanical oils, rose extracts, kewra water and saffron. It is eaten with a raita to balance the strong yet subtle favours.

Though it may appear indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, the Biryani originated in Persia. In fact, the word biryani comes from the Persian words birian and birinj, meaning ‘fried before cooking’ and ‘rice’.

There is still much debate on how the biryani arrived in India.

One legend talks about the Turk-Mongol conqueror, Timur, who brought the precursor to the biryani with him when he arrived at the frontiers of India during the 13th century. A war campaign diet of his soldiers, it was cooked in an earthen pot full of rice, spices and meats and buried in a hot pit for most of the day before being dug up and served.

Another legend has it that the dish was brought to the southern Malabar coast of India by Arab merchants. There are records in Tamil literature dating back to the year 2 CE about a rice dish called Oon Soru made of rice, ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf, to feed warriors.

Regardless of its origins, it was the 17th century Nizam rulers of Hyderabad who popularised the Biryani and made it what it is today. The Nizams (originally from Persia) were known for their appreciation of the subtle nuances of biryani. Their chefs were known to have prepared over fifty different versions of the dish using fish, shrimp, quail, deer, and even hare meat. The Hyderabadi biryani, as it is now known, was a product of these palace kitchens.

The secret to a good Hyderabadi biryani lies in the details — frying the onions until they’re just short of burnt, marinating the meat overnight to tenderise and infuse it with spices, knowing the exact moment to take the rice off the heat and the delicate balance of spices and fragrances.

Nargisi Kofta

Nargisi Kofta
Mughlai Cuisine

Nargisi Kofta

Nargisi Kofta is a dish of ground meat mixture wrapped around a hard boiled egg and cooked in rich spicy saucy gravy. It is a variation of the Persian kofta brought to India by the Mughal emperors.

This dish has an interesting and disputed history.

If you were to visit India, in the 17th century, locals may tell you their very own Nargisi Kofta was the inspiration for the Scotch Egg. A concept brought to the UK by returning British soldiers. However, if you ask anyone in the UK they would tell you the Nargisi Kofta is a version of the Scotch Egg introduced to India during the British Raj.

Food historian Annie Gray says: “I think you can pin down the Scotch egg’s introduction to Britain of the late 17th or early 18th century, and I suspect it came from India. Its forebear may well have been the nargisi kofta or ‘narcissus kofta’ — named after the flower’s white-and-yellow petals — which came to India from Persia with the Mughal emperors. The Mughals influenced two major regions with their cuisine — Awadh and Hyderabad — the egg is generally wrapped inside meat mince and fried, then served in a brown, yogurt-based gravy.”

It is debatable whether Scotch eggs were created when the British came to India and saw the Mughal dish, or if the Mughals gave Scotch eggs an Indian twist. But regardless of who holds the greatest claim to its origins, the Nargisi Kofta is a delicious and unique dish.

Galouti Kebab

Galouti Kebab
Mughlai Cuisine

Galouti Kebab

Galouti Kebab is a melt in your mouth dish made out of finely minced lamb, popular in the Avadhi region of India.

The Navabs of Avadh, the Persian rulers of India, were notorious for their exuberant lifestyles filled with luxury. Their fanciful palettes always demanded new and exquisite food from their Khansamas (chefs) and the Galouti Kebab is product of this quest.

Until 17th century, kebabs were quite chewy and course in texture. This changed when Nawab Asa-ud-Daula came to power. He was a man who took his food as seriously as his court affairs. As he started getting old, he began losing his teeth but the nawab was in no mood to let this come between him and his love for good food.

So he set up a contest where the maker of the softest and most succulent kababs without compromising on the flavours would enjoy royal patronage henceforth.

Thus was born the softest and most delicate kebabs in the world — the Royal Melting Kebabs, or the Galouti Kebab.

Mirchi Baingan ka Salan

Mirchi Baingan ka Salan
Mughlai Cuisine

Mirchi Baingan ka Salan

The year is 1498. The Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama discovers the first sea route to India and lands with one condiment that that for ages thereafter would remain symbolic to the Indian cuisine — the chilli pepper.

When he offered the chilli pepper saplings wrapped in moss as a gift for their stay, Vasco Da Gama could not have anticipated how it would be turned into an iconic dish by an equally iconic dynasty. The Mughals who were the rulers of Indian at the time, were great lovers of food with kitchens staffed by highly skilled chefs.

Many believe that the Mirchi Baingan ka Salan was first prepared for Akbar’s court by one of his khansamas (chef), as one of the highlights of the menu served at Akbar’s coronation ceremony as the Emperor Of India.

Emperor Akbar, who was a staunch vegetarian, loved this dish not only for its unique taste, but also for its integration of flavours.

Today, this impressive dish of chillis, aubergines and peanuts is a traditional Hyderabadi preparation usually served at weddings and special occasions.