In Search of the best Nihari in Delhi…
Soft succulent fatty and gelatinous chunks of mutton, infused with 50 odd spices, slow cooked five to seven hours (mostly overnight) in large vessels called shab deg (meaning overnight vessel) how appropriate, and then served between 5 to 8 in the morning as first meal to hungry souls…..as Nihari
In the world of laid back and slow cooking only one king reigns….undisputably so for centuries and that is Nihari. Made with chunky pieces of Lamb, beef, chicken, bone marrow or trotters (aka paya locally).
For Nihari converts and there are many, its nothing short of a religious experience, and travelling many miles from far off places to their favourite Nihari joint a true pilgrimage. Many are known to take the pilgrimage every day, for a serving of steaming, glistening, aromatic bowl of their favourite Nihari with a khameeri roti, kulcha or tandoori roti.
The history of Nihari is as old as the history of Mughals in India, having been a silent witness to the march, advancement and demise of the Mughal empire. Though exact origins of the dish are shrouded in mystery and its not easy to pin point its place of birth, there is enough culinary evidence to suggest that the dish took birth and evolved in Mughal era Delhi or Awadh province (now Lucknow). Then it spread to other places in the country with each region imparting its unique nuance to the dish.
So whereas the Nihari in Delhi is fiery and red the one served in Lucknow is gentler and subtler. In Delhi Nihari can now be experienced in contemporary dining establishments, and also in high end 5 star joints, its becoming quite ubiquitous. Also once only a morning dish meant to break one’s fast, its now dispensed almost throughout the day.
However to taste the true legacy one has to visit the master’s of the craft who are keeping the tradition alive. They see themselves as artisan’s of an old and vanishing craft. Only their passion explains why they continue to still do what they do, ducking successfully the onslaught of fast food and the changing social habits and attitudes towards what is considered healthy eating.
No wonder then that most of these Nihari master’s are found in the walled city (old Delhi), where change if at all has been slow in coming, thus providing these outlets steady customers loyal patronage, transcending generations. Any list of true Nihari master’s in Delhi shall be incomplete without the following names…….it’s a humble attempt by this blog to bring their Nihari experience to its reader’s.
Really there is no substitute to direct personal experience….especially of the culinary kind, but if we could offer a vicarious experience next best to the real thing then I would consider this post successful……so please feel free to comment. In addition if the experience leads to many of you sharing the knowledge with other’s in your communities and some of them are positively influenced enough to take the road to one of these establishments, then this post would really be successful in its objective.
The masters of Nihari craft in Delhi…