A sweet and spicy relish, the murabba finds its place in almost every Indian kitchen.

Having evolved from the idea of being able to enjoy fruits for months to come, the murabba has a rich legacy.

It has witnessed a journey right from the kitchens of the Arabs to the dining tables of India.

What is murabba?

Simply put, the murabba is a sweet preserve that is primarily made with fruits soaked in spices and sugars.

While the choice of fruit can range from apples to cherries and even extend to vegetables like carrots, the most popular murabba varieties are mango and amla (gooseberry).

It is said that soaking the fruit in syrup made of high-density sugars creates an environment that lowers water activity, thus preventing microbes from thriving.

What is the history of the murabba?

To understand this it is vital to understand where sugar processing first started.

The story goes that it was the Indian subcontinent where sugar was first produced from sugarcane.

Pressuring the sugarcane plant to extract the juice and then crystallising it through boiling was discovered around 350 AD, while the Gupta Dynasty was still reigning.

From then on, following the procurement of sugar, it was trade and exports that finally led to the murabba becoming a popular feature.

History says that when Darius the Great invaded India, he took sugarcane back to Persia, where the first instances of making jams were seen.

When the Arabs in Persia discovered this art, they began exploring it and identifying what other ways they could use to cook things in sugar, thus preserving them for a long time.

They would call this fruit preserve anbijat, and eventually, they came to be called murabba. However, the dish also has links to the Mughals and their arrival in the Indian subcontinent.

Did the Mughals love murabba?

Central Asian countries had a bounty of fruits and were well-versed in preservation techniques.

It is said that when the Mughals came to India in 1526, they also brought the sweet dish murabba, which soon came to be a symbol of royalty.

One instance where this has been highlighted is when Daulat Khan Lodhi, the governor of Lahore, invited Babur to fight Ibrahim Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi.

The former sent Babur a jar of half-ripened mangoes that had been preserved in honey. The Mughals went on to relish the dish, which found a special spot in their trades.

Some theories postulate that the morabba of Siuri in West Bengal had come down from the Portuguese.

Another murabba account says that in the mid-18th century, a gentleman named Hariprasad Dey went to Delhi. Here, he was so taken by the sweet petha that he learnt how to prepare it.

Through the course of history, the murabba has stood the test of time and continues to be a feature in winter specialities, even today, due to its multitude of benefits.