Eid Ul-Adha 2024: Origins Of Nihari, An Iconic Bakra Eid Dish
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Nihari is a dish that originated in India. Together with bone marrow, the stew is made of slow-cooked meat, such as lamb, beef, or chicken. Long pepper gives the dish its flavour. It is a common breakfast option in many towns and is served with khameeri roti. Nawabs used to eat this meal for breakfast after their morning prayers in the Mughal era. People have been consuming nihari for breakfast ever since it was introduced. During the Mughal era in the 18th century, the dish was created in the royal kitchens of Old Delhi.

What Is Nihari?

Nihari is a well-liked meat-based dish that is unique and credited to the Indo-Persian Mughals. Since many immigrants from Delhi moved to Karachi when Pakistan gained its independence in 1947 and established their restaurants there, nihari is also associated with Pakistani cuisine.

This dish is made using slow-cooked meat, including beef shanks, mutton, or chicken. The beef is cooked with stock and many spices, including cumin, cloves, cardamom, and garam masala, in big dough-sealed pots. Since the Arabic word "nahar," which means "morning," is where the name "nihari" originates, it is customarily consumed at breakfast. Proper cooking of nihari takes six to eight hours.

The History Of Nihari

Despite the common belief that nihari was always the royal food of the Nawabs and Mughals, the truth is far different. Since the name "nihar" is derived from the Arabic word "nahar," which means "morning," it is implied right away that this meal was intended to be eaten during breakfast. According to legend, the dish originated with the Indo-Persian Mughals and then found its way to the Nawabs' court in pre-partition India.

Some claim it originated from Khansamah for the Awadhi Nawabs, while others think it originated on the back lanes of Jama Masjid. When the mutton reached the royal court, Hakims told the chief chef to add turmeric and fenugreek seeds to combat wintertime diseases like coughs and colds.

Pakistani cuisine is also incomplete without the well-known meat dish, Nalli Nihari. Nihari became a mainstay of Pakistan's diet because a large number of Muslims from Delhi sought refuge there after the nation was divided in 1947. In almost every restaurant in Pakistan these days, nalli nihari is a staple. Furthermore, nihari is highly prized in several regions of Bangladesh, particularly in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Even though the affluent people relished their hearty breakfast special, there were several drawbacks. They would frequently overindulge in nihari in the morning and then nap to make up for it between the morning and afternoon prayers. This approach quickly gave rise to a malicious idea.

They discovered that by providing this sumptuous breakfast to the daily labourers who were constructing the mahals, railroads, and roads of the new India, they could claim it as payment instead of ujrat, or earned daily wages, and it also had an additional advantage. They would have fuel for the entire day from the rich, meaty stew.

There were additional modifications made to the meal itself. It was now cooked with tough leftovers of meat that most people didn't use, called offcuts, instead of prime cuts. There was a surprising use for the legendary six to eight hours of cooking in a sealed pot with lots of masalas and water, transforming those rough chunks of meat gradually into a stew that melts on your tongue. This idea is still reflected in the fact that the majority of individuals who work physical labour choose to eat nihari for breakfast, while those with considerable resources reserve their nihari for the weekends or dinner.

Nihari Today

Even though it is relished all year, nihari is a winter speciality or one that is served on special occasions like the holy month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Adha.  Irrespective of its place of origin and intricate history, Nihari has become an essential component of both Indian and Pakistani cuisines. It's a filling delicacy that will appeal to everyone who likes stews.