Impact of Islamic culture: Food fit for royalty.


India’s rich and varied cuisine has been influenced over time by Middle Eastern flavors and techniques. The earliest of these influences were brought by Syrian Christians from the Arab world and had a significant impact on the cuisine of Kerala.

Origins of Samosa

The popular snack food, samosa, likely had its roots in the Arab world. Arab cookbooks from the 10th and 11th centuries CE mention meat-filled patties called sambusas.

The arrival of Middle Eastern Traders

The arrival of traders, spiritual leaders, and conquerors from the Middle East starting in the 7th century CE brought new elements to India’s cultural fabric, including lasting influences on the gastronomical culture of the subcontinent.

Middle Eastern Contributions to Indian Cuisine

Some of the most important contributions from the Middle East to Indian cuisine include the introduction of rich gravies with nuts, saffron, aromatic herbs, and various types of bread. The Mughals brought these culinary influences to their most refined and sophisticated form. Loaves of bread such as sheer mal, roomali, and tandoori roti are also a gift of the Mughals to Indian cuisine. Kulfi, a popular Indian dessert, is believed to have originated in Mughal India.

Medieval Cookbook

The Nimatnama-i-Nasiruddin-Shahi, a medieval cookbook commissioned by Ghiyath Shah, the ruler of Malwa, is a compilation of medieval recipes with rich illustrations and was composed in Persian.

The Mughal Influence: How Middle Eastern Flavors Shaped Indian Cooking

The rich and complex flavors of Indian cuisine are a result of centuries of cultural exchange and fusion. One of the most significant influences on Indian cooking was the Mughal Empire, which ruled a large part of India from the 16th to the 19th centuries. In this article, we will delve into the Mughal influence on Indian cooking and how it shaped the cuisine we know and love today.

From Middle Eastern Origins to the Indian Subcontinent

The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur, a Central Asian prince with a lineage that traced back to both Timur and Genghis Khan. Babur’s descendants, including the famous Emperor Akbar, brought with them not only their political and military might but also their culinary traditions.

Middle Eastern cuisine, which was heavily influenced by Persian and Turkish flavors, was characterized by the use of aromatic spices, herbs, and sweet and sour combinations. These flavors were well suited to the Mughal tastes, and soon, the court kitchens were stocked with ingredients such as saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and dried fruits.

The Fusion of Flavors

As the Mughals settled in India, they interacted with the local population and absorbed elements of Indian cuisine into their own cooking. Spices such as cumin and coriander, which were not commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, became staples in Mughal kitchens. At the same time, Indian spices such as turmeric and chili powder were used to enhance the flavors of Mughal dishes.

One of the most iconic dishes to emerge from this fusion of flavors was biriyani, a rice dish that was originally a Persian dish but was transformed into the rich and flavorful biriyani we know today with the addition of Indian spices and ingredients such as saffron, cardamom, and yogurt.

The Legacy of Mughal Cooking

Today, the influence of Mughal cooking can be seen in many dishes across India. From the creamy kormas of the north to the tangy vindaloos of the south, Mughal-style cooking has left a lasting imprint on Indian cuisine.


the Mughal Empire played a significant role in shaping Indian cuisine, bringing with it the flavors and techniques of Middle Eastern cooking and fusing it with the local ingredients and spices of India. The result was a rich and diverse cuisine that continues to captivate the taste buds of people around the world. Whether you’re a fan of spicy curries or fragrant biriyani, you can thank the Mughals for the flavors you enjoy today.

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