This recipe is dedicated to all those who grew up in and around Kolkata 700016 and who enjoyed piping hot Nihari on cold winter mornings! For those who loved this spicy meat stew, it’s unimaginable not to have Nihari in winters today even though we may no longer live in Kolkata or Kolkata 700016. Steaming hot Nihari would be served in bowls and enjoyed with an endless number of finger burning hot daal puris or hot naan rotis! Oh! Those were the days! I remember stepping out of our old house, early winter mornings, with a stainless steel can and rushing to the best local restaurant in the area to buy the first and best batch of Nihari. I would rush home even faster after buying the hot stew and we would serve it almost immediately, top it with freshly chopped coriander and squeeze a quarter of a lemon into it, and be so happy and content after our bowlfuls of Nihari!
A bit of history about Nihari – There is some amount of dispute about the origin of Nihari. Some say Nihari was originally eaten by the Nawabs of the Mughal Empire, during the empire’s last days in the 18th century for breakfast while others say that Nihari was originally made in the kitchens of Awadh. Nihari, being spicy and heavy, is best when eaten in winter as it is easier to digest heavier foods in cold weather but is absolutely indigestible in summer. Nihari can be made with chicken or mutton but tastes best when made with beef. Traditionally, Nihari is cooked over low heat for 6 to 8 hours which makes beef the most suitable protein for this spicy soup as chicken and mutton will completely dissolve if cooked for 6 hours. A generous amount of bones with marrow is cooked along with the beef to make Nihari a power packed meal all by itself.
It is the combination and proportion of spices which makes an utterly delicious Nihari and each restaurant has their own version as per the choice and recommendation of their cook. Like all Mughlai and Awadhi recipes, it is the balance and proportion of spices which gives this dish its finesse and it is also what sets apart a restaurant which completely sells out its Nihari by 8:00 AM and one which has a half full daigh even at 01:00 PM. There are restaurants in Kolkata whose Nihari is legendary and Sufia Restaurant is the best of them by far. If ever in Kolkata, do drop by and enjoy their amazing food! Hats off to those cooks!
My version of Nihari is made in a pressure cooker and is very close, if not as good, as the Nihari served in Sufia Restaurant. I cannot afford to keep my gas on for 8 hours as I am not the son of an Indian millionaire. I made Nihari at home because I really do not like eating out anymore. The complete lack of hygiene, in local eateries, puts me off completely and there truly is nothing more satisfying than enjoying a well-cooked meal in the comfort of your own home. Did I mention that its pocket-friendly too? And yes, it chased away the niggling cold and cough which I had had for a couple of days.
The spice which gives Nihari its distinctive flavor is Long Pepper or Pipli. Long Pepper has a wonderful fragrance and has been used in Ayurveda medicine, for ages, for the treatment of ailments ranging from asthma to obesity. Without Long Pepper, it is impossible to make a good and authentic Nihari. This is the secret ingredient in Nihari which no cook or chef will ever tell you or mention in his or her recipe.
Also, there is absolutely no use of onions, in any form, in Nihari. If a recipe tells you to put onion in Nihari, then do so at your own peril as authentic Nihari is not made with onions. If you follow the proportions of spices and if you stick to the spices mentioned in my recipe, you will end up with an excellent Nihari.
Use good quality beef which has at least 30% of fat on the pieces of meat. The fat will melt in the cooking process and add plenty of flavor to the spicy beef soup. Add bones with thick marrow in the Nihari too as marrow also adds plenty of flavor and goodness to Nihari.
- Beef - 750 Grams Cut into Medium Size Chunks
- Bones with Marrow - 4 Large Pieces
- Ginger Paste - 3 Teaspoons
- Garlic Paste - 3 Teaspoons
- Long Pepper - 6
- Black Pepper Corns - 12 to 15
- Big Cardamom - 3
- Small Cardamom - 8
- Bay Leaves - 4
- Cinnamon Sticks - Two 2" Long
- Fennel Seeds - 1 Tablespoon
- Cloves - 10
- Cumin Seeds - 1 Teaspoon
- Black Cumin Seeds - ½ Teaspoon
- Coriander Seeds - 1 Teaspoon
- Star Anise - 2
- Hot Red Chilli Powder - 1 Teaspoon
- Kashmiri Chilli Powder - 2 Teaspoons
- Nutmeg Powder - ¼th Teaspoon
- Mace Powder - ¼th Teaspoon
- Ginger Powder - 1 Teaspoon
- Wheat Flour - 1 Cup
- Salt - To Taste
- Fresh Coriander Leaves - For Garnishing
- Lemon Quarters - To be squeezed into the Nihari after it is Served
- Grind all the whole spices to a smooth powder and mix into the meat.
- Add the Ginger and Garlic Paste and the remaining powder spices and mix into the meat.
- Add ½ Cup of Wheat Flour and mix into the meat.
- Marinate overnight.
- Place a pressure cooker on low heat and add marinated meat and bones.
- Pour in enough water in the pressure cooker. Meat has to be submerged completely in the water.
- Add Salt.
- Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on low heat for an hour.
- After an hour, remove the lid and check if meat is tender to the touch. If not then cook meat on low flame with the lid on for 15 minutes more.
- The pieces of meat should be soft and easy to break at this point.
- Dissolve the remaining Wheat Flour in half a cup of water and pour into the pressure cooker.
- Place the lid back on the pressure cooker and cook Nihari for 20 minutes to ½ an hour more.
- After ½ an hour, remove the lid and you'll see the most lovely beef Nihari which can be made at home boiling away in your pressure cooker.
- Serve piping hot, squeeze lemon juice as per your preference and enjoy with Naans or Daal Puris!
When I made the Nihari and while making it, my whole house was filled with the most amazing aroma of the spicy beef soup. I had never put Wheat Flour into any soup before but it gave the Nihari a wonderful thickness and balanced the flavor of all the spices and meat together beautifully. You’ll see that the meat pieces will break ever so easily with the lightest possible touch and the taste will be incredible! The fat will have melted completely and your Nihari will have this thin layer of deliciously melted fat and marrow on top of it! Keep stirring the Nihari while eating it to spread the goodness of the melted fat and marrow into the entire bowl.
For all those who love Nihari but are staying in different parts of the world, this is the most authentic recipe which is followed by restaurants all over Kolkata, Lucknow and other places where Mughlai and Awadhi food is served in India.
Do make this recipe and do let me know how you enjoyed it! Do remember to get plenty of exercise after eating Nihari as its packed with calories!