Nihari is known to be one of the breakfast staples of Mughals. Consisting of chicken, beef, goat meat and mutton, this dish was eaten on an empty stomach. It is thought to be extremely heavy. Historically, it was served to labourers who had to wake up early morning to do the construction work on havelis and mahals. When the temperatures dropped low, a bowl of nihari kept the ailments at bay. Hakims (physicians) also recommended the Nawabs to eat nihari after finishing their morning prayer to keep themselves warm in the winter days. 

Apparently, the cooks were also instructed to add selective spices which would further help keep sicknesses away. The full name of the dish is Nalli Nihari, and it has a divine taste. It continues to be eaten in places like Delhi, Bhopal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although nowadays chicken and mutton are mostly served in nihari, in the olden days, nihari was cooked with veal too. The dish would take seven to eight hours to cook. For making nihari, the cooks applied the gosht cooking style, which means that the meat was cooked in a deigh, a clay pot, on slow flame.

Nowadays, however, with the large variety of nihari masalas and pressure cookers available, we can make nihari any time. There is a theory that in those days, a bowl of nihari was saved to be poured into the next batch of nihari. We do not know the extent to which this is true. But many restaurant critics believe that the practice of pouring leftover nihari into the next day’s pot still continues. It is called taar, and this is the secret of that unique Nihari flavour. 

Serving lip-smacking Mughlai cuisine ever since 1913 in Old Delhi, the restaurant Karim’s makes Nihari to this date, calling it “nau baje ki nihaari” (9 AM Nihari).


If you have been to the restaurant to eat the delicious nihari, would you believe this is a centuries-old recipe and is still being served in this fine institution of Mughlai cuisine? 

The best way to devour a bowl of nihari is to roll up your sleeves, and dip a slice of freshly baked khamiri roti in the gravy, or wrap the meat or bone marrow in. The word, khamir, means yeast in Urdu. Khamiri roti is, after all, an authentic fermented flatbread. You must not miss out on this Old Delhi experience!