Nihari is a stew made from the shank of beef (or lamb) and spices. Originating in Delhi, it is now popular in Pakistan and (along with its cousin Siri paya) in northern India. The Muslims of Delhi brought it to Pakistan. Nihari is known for its spiciness and taste. Nihari is known in India as the breakfast curry, as it is often eaten in the morning. It is originally more of a delicacy with myriad variations on spiciness and texture.
Nihari originated as a dish of the Muslim upper class society in Delhi. It passed to other classes as Muslim ascendancy and power declined. This was after the waning of Mughal power in the mid to late 18th century when many Muslim families from the Mughal nobility became impoverished.
Traditional Nihari recipes call for 6-8 hours of cooking time, in addition to the preparation of the ingredients. This is much less common today with the use of tenderer cuts of meat (i.e. sirloin) instead of the tougher shank. Traditionally the dish is eaten in the early hours of the morning. Because the stew is so rich, one is supposed to have an extended nap till the afternoon Muslim zohr prayers which occur after midday.
Here is a version of Nihari popular in Hyderabad (India): prepare the broth by boiling water along with goat or beef shanks (sometimes chicken) or vegetables (if you want to make a vegetarian version of it) along with some salt. If you are using mutton paya, then the process takes longer.
Grind onions, shahi zeera (black cumin), cloves and cardamom together. Once the broth is ready, heat oil in a large pan, add the spice paste and let it fry till the raw smell of onion disappears, then add ginger and garlic paste. Fry for a few more minutes, add salt, chili powder and the broth and let it cook over medium heat till all the spices have blended well into the soup. The Nihari is ready.
Best enjoyed during winter or when down with a cold and best eaten with bread or phulka (Indian bread).
Famous Nihari shops in Pakistan are located in Karachi and Lahore. In Delhi, most nihari shops are modest affairs. Almost every locale within old Delhi has its own favourite nihari shop, which it invariably considers far superior to the others. The city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is home to Delhi Restaurant (Frijjumuraj Road) which is also famous for its Nihari.
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