Nihari…..slow cooking perfection
Who can resist a slow cooked mutton broth,
Who says slow cooking is dead, some institutions are keeping the tradition very much alive. If you happen to be in Lucknow mark this place on your must visit list and their nihari on your must eat list. Rahim’s is located in Chowk area of old Lucknow and is an institution as old as the dishes that they serve.
Run by the third generation of the original Mr Rahim, the dishes, the ambience and the culture provide a glimpse into what life must have been a century ago in Lucknow. The place is not swish and snazzy but its clean, the service is not very efficient but its sincere and the prices are unbeatable value for money.
I was not here for the ambience anyway……the subtle flavors stayed with me for so long that by the time their spell was broken I was far far away from Rahim’s… even Lucknow, as was the experience of some in my group.
Just a brief background…..I have deep family links with Lucknow and spent two of my schooling years in the city, beyond this I have continued to visit the city regularly. Most of my memories of Lucknow revolve around food and so when in April of this year year I got an invitation to attend a swift and fat family wedding I grabbed the opportunity. The prospect of renewing familial ties and refreshing nostalgic food memories all in one place….too tempting to let go.
Flavorful Mutton Nihari, crispy kulcha…..
……a match made in foodie heaven.
The mutton here is soft falling off the bone, the curry is subtle but at the same time full of muttony broth flavors and the accompanying bread (kulcha) is like no other kulcha I have had before. The kulcha at Rahim’s is almost artisanal.
The mutton nihari at Rahim’s in lucknow is much lighter than its counterpart in Delhi or other places that I have experienced, as with most cuisine in Lucknow its the Awadhi influence of subtlety of flavors that shines through at Rahim’s too. As I dip my crispy kulcha in the curry and took my first bite…..it almost tasted bland….but gradually the curry spread in the mouth and the flavors started to introduce themselves, one by one.
After the introduction was over I was left to savour the light muttony broth which was immensely satisfying. And then it sort of struck me, mutton nihari is after all a breakfast dish and the light linear flavors for the first meal of the day….it all made perfect sense. It is just the kind of dish I would like to start my day with, piping hot thin aromatic mutton curry, just the right consistency to be soaked up with a crispy kulcha.
The mutton in the curry……
deserves a special mention. It is wonderfully soft, the pieces selected for the dish are in keeping with the tradition….large bones with ample marrow and cartelage and gelatenious tissue attached. This when slow cooked for five to six hours is what gives the mutton nihari at Rahim’s its distinct texture and flavor.
The kulcha is the king….
At most places the accompanying bread with the nihari is a khamiri roti (flat bread made from yeast dough) or a tandoori roti. Howsoever good these maybe they generally go unsung in the presence of the much venerated and worshipped Nihari…..but not at Rahim’s. The kulcha at Rahim’s is almost artisanal, it has attained a stature of its own with or without the nihari. I suggest when you eat at Rahim’s please take a bite of the kulcha on its own….experience the goodness of tandoor baking at its best, and silently appreciate the result of ideal heat applied to a perfect dough of flour, milk sugar and salt.
The kulcha reveals itself in layers…..because that’s what it is made of multiple layers. The outer layers crispy and caramelised and inner layers soft and rich like a cake. I would admit the Kulcha at Rahim’s is not light by any standards, I would say it balances the light mutton nihari and becomes a perfect instrument to enjoy it.
Rahim’s has biryani too…
Rahim is not known for its biryani, atleast I was not aware of it till I visited the place. But if you are at Rahim’s then do try the biryani provided you still have some space after having your nihari fill.
I tried the mutton biryani and found it quite likeable. It was light and flavourful and the mutton piece was tender and juicy. Cooked in the tradition of awadhi biryani the flavours were subtle and it was a celebration of mutton in the rice rather than other way around. The place also serves buff biryani for those who are interested.
Bottomline, do not go there for the biryani, but if you have already made the journey then try the biryani also.
Location and how to reach
Rahim Nihari is located in the chowk area of Lucknow. The best way to reach Chowk is to take a cab till main chowk. At main chowk ask for directions, its a 10 min walk to Rahim.