The involvement of the Mughals in Indian cuisine is one of the most significant milestones in Indian culinary heritage. Mughal capitals, particularly Awadh and Delhi, witnessed some of the greatest gourmet treasures during their rule and management. Among this rich wealth, the Nihari is one such delectable dish that we can't get enough of.
Nihari is a stew-like dish made by slow-cooking meat and bone barrow. It involves the goodness of flavorful spices, slow-cooked meat fortified with atta, or Indian-style durum whole wheat flour. Nihari is typically made with beef, but it can also be made with lamb, goat meat, or chicken. Nalli Nihari with Khameeri Roti is still one of Old Delhi's most popular traditional breakfasts. But its origin dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Historians claim that Nihari originated in Old Delhi, while others claim that it was first prepared by the finest Awadhi khansamas which were later modified in the kitchens of old Delhi.
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Like the dish itself, its preparation is equally delectable. The Nihari is traditionally prepared in a large pot or degh. Each day, a few kilos of leftover Nihari are added to the pot for the next day. Taar is a re-used portion of Nihari that is known to add a unique and rich spicy flavour to freshly cooked Nihari. Some Nihari outlets in old Delhi can still boast of an unbroken 'taar' that dates back over a century!
The term 'Nihari' is derived from the Arabic word 'Nahar', which means morning. It was initially eaten as a breakfast item by Nawabs in the Mughal Empire after their morning prayers (Fajr). It is believed that after a wholesome Nihari breakfast, the Nawabs took a nap until the afternoon when they would awaken for afternoon prayers. Nihari also became popular among the masses and the Mughal army, who would consume the stew for its energy-boosting properties to get through Delhi's chilly winter mornings.
Nihari is thought to be an offshoot of the Indo-Persian influence in food brought in by the Mughals. The rich Mughlai cuisine diffused magic with its Persian nuances tempered with Indian tastes and flavours. It was during this period that Delhi's cuisine began to emerge as one of the world's richest cuisine fares. Nihari was also used as a home remedy for colds and fevers by the Haqims of old Delhi.
Nihari is also a popular ingredient in Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisine. The flavorful and savoury nihari is slow-cooked overnight until the meat melts completely and blends with the texture of the stew. It is frequently served with meat and garnished with ginger juliennes, chopped coriander leaves, green chillies, and ghee. Nihari goes best with khameeri roti. You can easily find Nihari shops while roaming around in Purani Dilli. Some of the very popular shops are Haji Shabrati Nihariwale and Kallu Nihariwale two of the oldest and most well-known Nihari outlets in the city.
The most unique aspect of nihari is that there are very few ingredients that you need to make this delicious cuisine, hoping on the recipe for another day but when it comes to the ingredients the main ingredient is the 'Nihari Masala' that you can easily get readymade packets but what's better than making your own at home so for making the perfect Nihari masala that you can store for over a month, You will need:
4 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder or paprika (for colour)
two and a half small black cardamom pods
2 small mace blades (1 inch) (or piece of mace)
peepli 1 inch (long pepper)
To make Nihari Masala powder, combine all of the ingredients in a spice grinder and grind until a powder forms. Only when you consider yourself a true meat lover, you must try this smooth and silky delicacy inherited by the Mughals. Here is a small visual tour of Mughaliya cusine from Old Delhi-