A Brief History of Mughlai Food in Agra, India

Rogan Josh
Rogan Josh | © Gahdjun/ Wikimedia Commons
Soma Hashmi

After 1526 – when emperor Babur occupied Agra – the city slowly and steadily became the Mughal capital for generations to come. It’s no surprise then that the Mughals also influenced Agra’s cuisine with the same splendour and magnificence. Today, several of the city’s fine-dining restaurants serve an array of Mughlai delicacies – creamy, richly flavoured curries brought to life with an abundance of spices, dried fruits and roasted nuts.

http://instagram.com/p/BLzJ_nzlR1q/?tagged=peshawri

Mughal food was originally invented by fusing existing Persian and Indian cuisines. The Mughal Empire attained many of its attributes from the Persians, including language, which is why several Mughlai dishes have a typical Persian ring to them.

Although emperor Babur didn’t live long enough to express his desire for the type of foods he devoured, he did set a trend by hiring Hindu cooks to prepare Persian-style dishes with Indian ingredients. It was during the reign of his successor, emperor Humayun, that dried fruits and nuts were incorporated into recipes for sweets, sauces and rice. Humayun loved sherbet (a cold, sweet drink), so beverages became flavoured with the essence of fruits. The emperor sympathised with the Hindus under his rule and completely shunned the consumption of beef, which was typically replaced by the meat of goat, fowl and venison.

But it was during emperor Akbar’s era that Mughal cuisine reached new heights. Employing over 400 cooks, Akbar’s feasts would more often than not span 100 different dishes. Many of his cooks were from what is now called Rajasthan, and they fused their rich style of cooking with Persian flavours, creating an altogether different kind of cuisine. It was then that one of the most delicious and elaborate meals was created in the Mughal kitchens: Murgh Musallam, a masala-coated whole chicken, stuffed with a spicy mixture of minced meat and cooked over low heat.

Masala-coated Murgh Musallam

When Shah Jahan came into rule, the invention of Mughlai food was at its peak – think lamb kebabs marinated in Indian spices, rice pilaf ramped up a notch into the newly developed biryani, and silver and gold edible foils used to enhance the appearance of foods.

Mughlai Biryani: the next natural step from rice pilaf

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, Agra started to lose its essence as the hub of Mughal culture. Much of the focus shifted to cities like Hyderabad and Lucknow. However, even today, a number of restaurants in Agra continue to serve dishes rustled up using the same exotic spices, maintaining the traditional touch typical of the Mughal era.

Restaurants in Agra serving Mughlai food

Peshawri – ITC Mughal

Address: Taj Ganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh. T: +91 562 4021700

Opening hours: 12:30pm-3pm, 7pm-12 midnight

Esphahan – The Oberoi Amervillas

Address: Taj East Gate Road, Fatehabad Road, Tajganj. T: +91 562 2231515

Opening hours: 7pm – 9pm, 9:30pm- 11pm

Pinch of Spice

Address: 1076/2, Fatehabad Road, Opp. Hotel ITC Mughal, Tajganj, Vibhav Nagar, Tajganj, Agra. T: +91 93805 06688

Opening hours: 12pm – 12am

Jahanpanah

Address: E-23, Shopping Arcade, Sadar Bazar, Sadar Bazar, Agra Cantt, Idgah Colony, Agra. T: +91 99179 99170

Opening hours: 12:30pm-11:30pm

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article