Nihari is a South Asian stew consisting of slow-cooked beef or lamb along with bone marrow, garnished to taste and occasionally served with cooked brain.
The word Nihar originated from the Arabic word “Nahar” which means “day” as it was typically served to kings after sunrise Fajr prayers, who would then sleep until the afternoon.
According to many sources: Nihari originated in Old Delhi (Jama Masjid and Daryaganj areas) in the late eighteenth century during the last throes of the Mughal Empire. The Muslim Nawab ate Nihari early in the morning after Fajr prayers and then took a long nap before going to Zhuhr (afternoon Muslim prayers). Later on, it became popular among the labor class as a regular breakfast item.
Another story reveals that Nihari was cooked overnight in large volume to be served to the labourers. Whenever there were massive constructions involved and the kings served meals free to labour and also paid them. In some instances kings did not want to offer coins / currencies, they in turn offered free meals and accommodations to the labourers. Since the work had to be started in the morning, it was cooked in an earthern pot, sometimes even buried and served in the morning to ensure the supply of energetic labour force.
Alternative origins puts roots in the Muslim Nawab kitchens, having achieved fame via the storied royal kitchens of Lucknow in present-day Lucknow.
Nihari is a delicacy made from Lamb and Beef shank with spices. There are different versions of making the Nihari and in the Hyderabadi version Nihari contains lamb bones and tongue. Spread of quick cooking recipe of Nihari popularized by use of chicken to make a sort of thick chicken broth. Nihari with multilayered Kulcha is a famous cuisine of Old Lucknow. Nalli Nihari made with marrow bones is another variation of preparing the Nihari.
Preparing the traditional Nihari, in a pot heat little clarified butter or cooking oil. Once the oil get hot add some slices onions and fry till they turn light golden brown. Remove from oil and put the onions on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Crush the onions.
Add the meat and garam masala powder (whole spices), plain yogurt , ginger paste, garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, bay leaves, cinnamon and turmeric powder, continuously fry by stirring until the oil separates. Add in the nutmeg, cardamoms, aniseeds and black salt. Stir, add in enough water to cover the meat and cook on low heat covered for 2 to 3 hrs.
Once the meat is cooked and tender, add in the flour and cook on low heat for about another 10 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves, fried onions, green chillies and ginger strips. The Nihari is ready and can be best enjoyed during winter or when down with a cold and best eaten with bread or Phulka. It is also eaten with plain fresh naan, usually for breakfast or brunch – especially after long nights for its restorative qualities. Its combination of deeply flavored, earthy meat, the fresh zest of the toppings, and the perfection of a proper tandoori naan is one of the greatest bites to make you feel royal taste.
Next 2 series would describe the Lost Recipes of Mughal Era … Mughals were known for their architecture … But Mughals were also known for their fabulous taste buds and their Khansamas were some unknown alchemist who presented some extraordinary dishes which today has vanished . My journey began towards Lost Recipes of Mughal era when Celebrity ChefOsama Jalali and Chef Ravi Tej of The Oberoi’s invited me to learn / understand what Mughal empire left behind . From journey starts with some spices to a Mughal Cuisine which is lost some where