Andrew Buncombe: Delhi's best kept culinary secret

Nihari is a meat porridge that sets its eater up for the day

Share
Related Topics

"If you eat this three times in a week, your face will be looking very healthy," announced my friend Mr Singh. "And it is also very good for sex. Very strong."

Even before such a hard-to-ignore sales pitch, I'd heard about the wonders of nihari, a Moghul-era meat dish which is cooked at a bullock-cart pace and sends its foodie fans into raptures. Traditionally prepared using special spices and the shank bones of beef or lamb, the dish is cooked overnight until the meat acquires the constituency of near-liquid. Typically this Muslim dish is traditionally eaten for breakfast – a meat porridge that sets its eater ready for whatever the most testing day may have to offer.

I made inquiries among friends in Delhi. Everyone, it seemed, had their favourite outlet for this legendary food, where the owners used secret, passed-down recipes. I was told than that in Hindu-majority India, beef nihari would almost certainly be made with buffalo meat (though apparently in cow-sacred Delhi there is a world within a world that dabbles in illicit supplies of the real thing) and almost always cooked in a scruffy, backstreet eateries rather than anywhere fancy. Word had it that patrons of five-star hotels often dispatched taxi-drivers to scruffy restaurants in Old Delhi to bring back a fix.

I learned that a dhaba, or café, hidden in a narrow alleyway in a small Muslim neighbourhood near my apartment also cooked nihari. The following night I set out to bring some home for dinner, along with a stack of flat rotis cooked in a tandoor clay oven. It was remarkable – succulent, melting meat in the richest of sauces. And whether I was imagining it or not, after eating the nihari I did feel oddly revived after a tiring day. As to whether or not it really provides the full benefits as promised by Mr Singh, I'll need to go back. Twice more.

Better than caffeine

I have to take an early morning flight to London. At 5.30am, the man at passport control at Delhi looks exhausted. He keeps asking where my visa is. I tell him, but he appears not to notice. Then he asks again. I look up. Between asking to see the visa and turning the pages of my passport, he has dozed off. I watch as his eyelids gently glide shut. What time do you finish? "8.30am," he yawns back. "It's a 13-hour shift." Of course, I know the obvious solution for his lack of energy. If only I'd packed some nihari.

Getting there on time

A race is on to make sure that Delhi is ready to host next year's Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately a government committee reports that the sports facilities and additional infrastructure are way behind schedule. One of the few places where construction is going on round the clock is at the airport, where a new international terminal is being built. At least people will be able to get here.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz