Not many a things, I believe, are worth getting up at 5 in the morning for. Well there is this one thing that not only makes me wake up early but also leaves me dreaming the whole night. Nihari.
First and foremost I gotta thank with immense amount of love in my heart and gratitude: the Delhi Metro. For bringing Purani dilli so so close to Gurgaon. My lips curl into a smile, my eyes have a twinkle and my tummy roars.
It aint only bout the Nihari, (though my tummy disagrees) it's the entire experience. The journey, the people it makes u meet, the places it makes you reach, a whole different world that u get to see, and that sudden change that it brings about in you. We've been visiting purani dilli for the Nihari for a long time now, a few years for me since I got introduced to the Nihari, I refer to it with such respect coz its not just a mere dish served in the oldest lanes of Delhi, it’s a tradition, it’s got its own history, it's part of a culture. Its not just food, it's just something else. The fact that u wont get it in restaurants in the city only makes it more mysterious.
In very simple words a Nihari is nothing but a stew. Nihari comes from the Arabic word "Nahar" which means day. I think it's because it can get you thru the entire day.
It originally referred to a beef stew, and we hope that it is still available in Pakistan. But we mere souls here inDelhi have to suffice with either mutton Nihari or at the most a buff (buffalo) variation. The meat is cooked on a slow fire for hours together so as to not only get the spices running all through the meat also to make sure that the meat literally melts in your mouth. The actual ingredients and spices have always been kept a secret and also do vary from family to family which is proven from the fact that even though every fifth shop (if not third) serves their variation of Nihari in the Matia mahal Bazaar of Chandni chowk, each one has their own distinct flavor.
So we decided to get you a taste of a few of them. We started with the tiniest in the lane. Bilal.
""Bade ka khana na chahogay? Zyada dur nahi dus baara dukaane chhod Bilal pe chale jao"
" Shukriya Janaab"
Its strange how one starts to talk differently when in the by lanes of Purani dilli. How easy it becomes to talk to people in there, to ask directions, and how wonderful a reaction one gets when food becomes the topic of discussion.
Striding past Kareem and Jawahar, as if we had found our calling we entered into the humble corner of Bilal. Chairs and table enough for you to squeeze yourself into them had no relevance in front of the freshly baked khameeri roti
and the meaty aroma. All I could see were the mounds of chopped green chili and sliced ginger waiting to be strewn over the plate that was to have the privilege of having the Nihari served in it.
The Nihari at Bilal is robust and very well spiced. Not for the weak at heart. It literally opens up all your senses, and talks' serious business. Once it hits your tongue you feel this amazing rush and you instantly realize why this is a morning meal. One portion of the same and you are fully pumped up to take on anything during the day. It's strange when you think that this was the food of the Muslim elite and is now available to us mere mortals only because of the decline of the Mughal Empire.
Unlike the Nihari at Kareem and Jawahar, Bilal sells the Bade ki (Buff) Nihari. The meat determines the flavor of the Nihari to quite a level. Since the Buff is quite a tough meat, it does require longer cooking which, I believe, ends up making the gravy quite flavorsome. The fresh flavor of Javetri though heavily masked by the excessive use of chili was still apparent. The Nihari here is pretty thick (viscous), which I ended up enjoying a lot. The meat here is not really 'melt in the mouth' but that’s also because of the use of buff which, as I said earlier, is a tough meat. Though it did shred to pieces at the touch of the khameeri roti. The roti I would not say was much worth mentioning. But that dint stop me from using the last piece of roti to polish the plates up of the remaining stew.
For me Bilal was a thumps up and even while leaving the place all I could think of was when can I do this again…..
Where: Matia Mahal, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, New Delhi
When: Early morning between 6am and 9am
Price: Rs 46/- (1 plate of Nihari and 2 Khameeri rotis)