Aurangabad: A Confluence Of Maharashtrian And Nawabi Influences
Image Credit: Freepik

Aurangabad is often hailed as the gateway to the magnificent heritage of Maharashtra, is renowned not only for its historical monuments but also for its rich and diverse culinary traditions. The city’s unique culinary landscape is a reflection of its historical past, where the influences of Maharashtrian and Mughal cuisines have seamlessly merged.

Video Credit: Rutba Khan Kitchen

Aurangabad was named after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Its history dates back to the 17th century. As a prominent Mughal bastian, the city witnessed a significant influx of Persian, Turkish, and Central Asian influences, especially in its culinary traditions. The Mughal rulers and their nobility brought with them rich, aromatic, and intricate cooking techniques that profoundly impacted the local cuisine. Additionally, the geographical proximity of Aurangabad to the Deccan Plateau infused local Maharashtrian flavours into the mix, resulting in a harmonious blend of Nawabi opulence and Maharashtrian simplicity.

The Nawabi influence in Aurangabad’s cuisine is evident in its use of rich spices, elaborate cooking techniques, and the prominence of meat-based dishes. The Mughals were known for their love of food and their kitchens were often a laboratory for culinary experimentation, leading to the creation of several iconic dishes. A section of Aurangabad’s food is bound to remind one of the fare in cities such as Lucknow.

The Regal Touch

Some of the dishes popular in the city with influence from both cultures include the following - 

Biryani and Pulao 

Biryani, the crown jewel of Mughal cuisine, has a special place in Aurangabad’s culinary repertoire. Aurangabadi Biryani is distinct from its counterparts in Hyderabad and Lucknow, characterised by its unique blend of spices and the use of locally grown ingredients. The rice is often cooked with saffron, giving it a golden hue, and is layered with marinated meat, caramelised onions, and fragrant spices.

Recommendation: Hotel Tuba, Champa Chowk.

Type: Non-vegetarian

Price: Rs 200-250

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Naan Qalia or Naan Khaliya 

Naan Qalia is a quintessential Aurangabadi dish which is also probably the most widely discussed and written about dish for the region. The dish consists of two components: naan, a type of flatbread, and qalia, a spicy mutton curry. The qalia is cooked with a myriad of spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red chilli, creating a rich and flavourful curry that pairs perfectly with the soft, leavened naan. In fact many restaurants claim that the Khaliya is made the same way the Mughals made, even today.

Recommendation: Bismillah Naan Qaliya House, Naralibag

Type: Non-vegetarian

Price: Rs 180-250

Photo Credit: Freepik

Kebabs and Grills 

Kebabs, an integral part of Mughal cuisine, are also popular in Aurangabad. The city’s version includes a variety of grilled meats, often marinated in yoghurt and spices, and cooked over charcoal to impart a smoky flavour. Seekh kebabs, made with minced meat, and shami kebabs, made with a blend of meat and lentils, are particularly popular. If one looks hard enough one may also find a version of Lucknow’s Tunday Kebab.

The Paaya and Haleem also make an appearance on most menus. The city also has what is known as the Aurangabadi Kantakki, their own version of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Recommendation: Tawakkal Kabab Centre, Juna Bazaar

Type: Non-vegetarian

Price: Rs 300

Sheer Khurma

Sheer Khurma is a traditional Mughal dessert made with vermicelli, milk, dates, and nuts. In Aurangabad, this dessert often incorporates local ingredients like jaggery and saffron, adding a regional twist to this festive treat.

Maharashtrian Influence

While the Nawabi influence brought richness and complexity to Aurangabad’s cuisine, the Maharashtrian influence added simplicity, balance, and a connection to local produce. The use of lentils, vegetables, and milder spices characterises the Maharashtrian culinary contributions to Aurangabad.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bhakri and Thalipeeth

Bhakri, a type of flatbread made from millet or sorghum flour, is a staple in Maharashtrian cuisine. In Aurangabad, bhakri is often served with spicy chutneys, lentil dishes, or vegetable curries. Thalipeeth, another popular Maharashtrian flatbread, is made with a multigrain flour mix and is enjoyed with butter or yoghurt.

Recommendation: Hotel Maratha, CIDCO

Type: Vegetarian

Price: Rs 25-50

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pithla Bhakri 

Pithla, a chickpea flour-based curry, is a traditional Maharashtrian dish that has found its way into Aurangabadi cuisine. It is typically served with bhakri and is flavored with green chilies, garlic, and cumin. The simplicity of pithla, combined with the rustic texture of bhakri, makes it a comforting and wholesome meal.

Mutton Rassa 

Mutton Rassa is a spicy and tangy curry that combines the richness of Mughal spices with the tanginess of Maharashtrian kokum (a type of fruit used for souring). This dish is typically enjoyed with steamed rice or bhakri, highlighting the regional adaptation of Nawabi flavours.

Recommendation: New Maratha Restaurant, Nirala Bazaar

Type: Non Vegetarian

Price Rs 300-600

Look out for shops serving delicious Sabudana Vade, Sabudana Khichdi, comforting Varan Bhaat and soft puran polis.

Recommendation: Naivedya Thali Restaurant

Type: Vegetarian

Price: Rs 200

From the opulent biryanis and kebabs to the humble pithla bhakri and street food favourites, Aurangabad’s culinary offerings are a testament to the harmonious confluence of different culinary traditions. As the city continues to evolve, its cuisine remains a delicious reminder of its rich and diverse heritage.