Delhi is the home for Mughlai Cuisine that comes from the kitchens of the ancient Indian aristocracy or the Moghul Emperors. This cuisine is dominating in the northern part of India. It has strong influences of Muslim Cooking and some of the dishes still keep their Muslim names like kebabs, kofta, pulao, biryani etc. Mughlai Cuisine is very "spicy" and has a distinctive aroma and taste of ground and whole spices. These spices are easily available in Indian Speciality shops all over the world.
Mughals invaded India in the sixteenth century. They brought exotic spices, dried fruits and nuts and new cooking methods. Mughlai dishes as they are called have lots of milk and cream with spices to make rich and spicy meal. Mughlai cuisine includes many famous dishes such as Kormas, Pasandas and Birianies and Pulaus.
The influence of the Mughal rulers who ruled India is perhaps most felt in their food. A major contribution towards this is the tandoor which is an earthen oven, used to make rotis and kababs, which are pieces of meat marinated in spices and skewered over a coal tandoor. Some of the famous Mughlai dishes include tandoori chicken, seekh and boti kebab and even tandoori fish.
Mughlai food is very rich in taste. Its sauces consist of curd, cream and crushed nuts like cashew. The biryani from the kitchens of the nawabs of Hyderabad, is a flavored and spiced rice cooked with ghee and chicken or meat, and is a meal-in-a-dish eaten with raitha and salad. Aromatic spices and ghee make Mughlai food a very rich form of cuisine.
Mughali Reigns In Chandni Chowk
If one wants to enjoy the original taste of Mughlai Food, theres still no place like the Mughal emperor Shah Jahans city, now called the Old Delhi. At places like the now almost legendary Karims and Babu Khans near Jama Masjid, Kallus Halim near Gali Chitli Qabar and Nalli Nahari in Beradari, beyond Ballimaran, the art of making Mughlai food is just like it was in the good old days of the emperors. The reason for this is that most of the families who own these restaurants in Old Delhi are descendants of the royal cooks who used to serve in the kitchens of the Mughal emperors. They take fierce pride in having successfully preserved the culture of the Mughlai cuisine in face of the Tandoori onslaught.
Interesting Stories behind the Creation of New Dishes
There are stories attached to most places and food in the city. Like the nahiri, a delicate beef stew that is painstakingly prepared overnight and served just-so now at Nali Nahiri and such places. Apparently during the reign of Shah Jahan, Delhis water supply came from a canal in the middle of Chandini Chowk. The water of this canal became suspect for some reason so the doctors (hakims, in those times) got together and came up with a recipe for a beef stew with lots of red chilies which were supposed to have germ-killing properties. Whether that worked or not is not known, but we can tell the nahiri sure did. It is still a very popular dish in Delhi and other cities of Northern India, like Lucknow and Kanpur.
Chandini Chowk is still revered as the best place to sample foods from the Mughlai cuisine, be it main course dishes, sweets or snacks. In teeth of fierce competition from the fast-food brigade Chandini Chowk has managed to hang on tenaciously and determinedly to that unique charm from another era.