Ibn Battuta (Born: February 25, 1304, Tangier, Morocco-Died: 1377, Morocco), was a Moroccan explorer of Berber descent. He is known for his extensive travels, accounts of which were published in the Rihla (lit. “Journey”). Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the known Islamic world as well as many non-Muslim lands. His journeys included trips to North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa and Eastern Europe in the West, and to the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and China. Ibn Battuta is considered to be among the great travellers of all time.
Ibn Battuta described a royal meal: bread (which is thin round cakes); large slabs of meat (sheep); round dough cakes made with ghee (clarified butter) which they stuff with sweet almond paste and honey; meat cooked with ghee, onions and green ginger; “sambusak” (triangular pastries made of hashed meat and cooked with almonds, walnuts, pistachios, onions, and spices put inside a piece of thin bread fried in ghee – like our modern samoosas); rice cooked in ghee with chickens on top; sweetcakes and sweetmeats (pastries) for dessert. They drank sherbet of sugared water before the meal and barley-water after. Then they had betel leaf and areca nut (a mild narcotic). (Gibb, Vol. III, pp. 607 – 608)
He also described the following: mango; pickled green ginger and peppers; jack-fruit (like a large melon weighing three to four pounds) and “barki” (like a yellow gourd with sweet pods and kernels) – “the best fruits in India”; tandu (fruit of the ebony tree); sweet oranges; wheat, chickpeas and lentils, and rice which was sown three times a year! Sesame and sugar cane were also sown. He said the Indians ate millet (a type of grain) most often and he especially liked pounded millet made into a gruel (porridge) cooked with buffalo’s milk. They also ate peas and mung beans cooked with rice and ghee which the Indians ate for breakfast every day. Animals were fed barley, chickpeas, and leaves as fodder and even given ghee. (Gibb, pp. 609 – 612).
Ibn Batuta with the Sultan Muhammad Tughluq
On a hunting trip with the Sultan Muhammad Tughluq, he describes the following food: flesh of sheep, fattened fowls, cranes, and other kinds of game.
A favorite dish of the Muslim community in Kerala in the southern state of India (where Ibn Battuta had his disastrous ship-wreck) is rasoi made of rice, lamb, grated coconut and onion). Ibn Battuta told that Muslim women ate separately from the men in India, as in most of the Muslim countries he visited.