Nihari is a popular meat dish in Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent. Its roots lie in the Nawab kitchens of Northern India, long the seat of the Nawab of Avadh and is also relished in India by Muslims and non-Muslim foodies.
The word Nihar originated from the Arabic word "Nahar" (Arabic: نهار) which means "day" (opposite to night) or the light between sunrise (Fajr) and sunset. This dish was usually eaten in the early morning (puritans would indulge in this delicacy before sunrise, right after the Fajr prayers).
Muhajir immigrants from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh region brought it to Pakistan after independence in 1947; today, it is regarded as the national dish of Pakistan. The dish is known for its spiciness and taste. It is originally more of a delicacy with myriad variations on spiciness and texture.
Nihari is cooked overnight in various vessels, sometimes even buried underground while it cooked, as Shab Deg (cooked overnight) is, which results in extremely tender morsels of meat, including the flavourful bone marrow. It is served with a number of side dishes. The bhaghaar is lightly fried in ghee to reduce the heat of chilis and the tarka is an additional oily chilli to spice up the flavour. Cooked brains and bone marrow are served alongside the stew. The Nihari is garnished according to individual tastes with coriander leaves, fried onions, green chillies, strips of ginger, lemons and sliced white radishes. In addition, garam masala, a blend of powdered spices is sprinkled over the stew. Salt is added to taste. In restaurants many of the garnishings are already added to increase customer turnover.
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.
The Hyderabadi version of the Nihari contains lamb bones and tongue. Another version of Nihari, popularised by the spread of quick-cooking spice recipes from brands like Shan and National Foods of Pakistan, uses chicken to make a sort of thick chicken broth.
Nihari with multilayered Kulcha is a famous cuisine of Old Lucknow. It is available at Gole Darwaza, Chowk Area, near the famous shop of Tunde Kababi.
Nalli nihari is a variation made with marrow bones.