Food Talk
Nihari at daybreak

This non-vegetarian dish is cooked overnight, writes Pushpesh Pant.

Some of the fondest memories from our childhood are of being taken out by dad to gorge on nihari and kulcha on winter mornings to the Chowk in Lucknow.

The name indicates that it is associated with daybreak and indeed nihari is cooked overnight over slow fire to greet its lovers early in the day. We were mildly surprised to find it on a dinner menu in a restaurant recently but, of course, did not complain and ordered it drooling.

What appeared after what seemed an endless wait was a not even a pale shadow of the original — an unacceptable apology indistinguishable from a botched up mutton curry. We were dying to make amends and a visit to Lucknow provided the opportunity.

First stop was the tried and tested Rahim Miyan’s outlet almost on the steps of the Akbari mosque. He continues to make the most fantastic kulcha but the nihari seemed to miss the punch. One hopes this was just because of the chef’s off day.

Still yearning we ended up in Nazirabad and ventured into unknown Arabeeya recalling "nothing venture nothing win". We were amply rewarded with the tastiest nihari we have had in decades.

For preparing, the nihari paye (trotters) are simmered with beautifully chiseled chunks of meat and the gravy is truly enriched by the gelatinous juices slowly released by the bones; some of the bones are cracked to incorporate the tastiest treat — the marrow. Not without reason has the nihari been called darzan masalon ki chaat. It does not pretend to be delicate or subtle, it is invariably and unabashedly robust and spicy.

The seasoning is often adjusted as per individual taste at the table — it is customary to bring finely chopped onions, green chilies, thinly striped ginger and wedges of lime with a piquant sprinkling masala with a plateful of nihari.