Growing up, my mom slow cooked Nihari every single Sunday without fail. Pakistani slow cooked nihari has been a staple in our house, and this was partly because my younger brother is the biggest Nihari fan, after Shafi. We would sit on the floor with a traditional “dastarkhwan” and slop in our fresh tandoor naan, and take big bites of Nihari while sweating away pints in the Karachi heat. Summer or winter, Nihari has always been a staple in our house.
When I got married, Shafi was not a Nihari fan. In fact, his family never cooked Nihari. My mother-in-law very matter-of-factly states anytime Nihari comes up, that her daughter-in-law i.e. me makes the best Nihari. This is a huge compliment coming from her, as she is quite the master in the kitchen.Jump to Recipe
So you may be wondering:
How did I learn how to make Nihari?
I learned how to make slow cooked Nihari on the phone with my mom. There is no going around this, but I find Nihari to be an incredibly easy recipe to cook because it does not require what other traditional Pakistani recipes require: BHUN! There is no need to labour in front of the stove and brown onions and tomatoes or anything of that sort. My method is a dump and go kind of method, aided by handy masala blends from a store bought packer. I have shared 100’s of times now that I am all about convenience, and labouring to create my own hand crushed spice blend is not on my list of things to accomplish before I die. An epic slow cooked Nihari is.
What is the secret to an epic Nihari?
There are THREE secrets.
First – the slow cook. Yes. You have to slow cook it the old-school way, which is atleast 8-12 hours depending on how much meat you have.
Second – you need bones. Without bones, its not Nihari and the gravy does not have the quintissential stickiness that Nihari comes with that makes it NIHARI. Now, I will be bold enough to say that when I am in a tizzy, I make this with chicken and when I shared this on Instagram – y’all lost your marbles! I got 134 (to be exact!) DM’s stating that Chicken Nihari is NOT a thing. I heard you, and I whole heartedly agree with you.
The third but not-so-secret-secret to an epic tasty finger-lickin’ NIhari is a great cut of meat, preferably beef. Veal and goat just don’t taste the same to me but that is personal preference.
So given all these, I am answering some questions that you guys asked me and ones I have struggled with myself over the years of making Nihari.
How much time is needed to make this Slow Cooked Nihari?
The longer the better. For 2 kg of meat, I like to cook it at least 8-10 hours. Depending on the time of the day I start at, I will have to turn off the stove before bed and let it cool down. Now, I shared this on my IG stories.. and I got many questions about the why/how/what. This is all personal preference, but I truly believe that this adds to the flavour profile of the dish. I start my cooking the day PRIOR to serving mostly in the evening. I cook it for 3-4 hours, and then turn off the stove. At this point, the dish is basically cooked and ready to serve. But here is the thing… the best kind of Nihari is a day old. Traditionally, NIHARI is served for breakfast. The word NIHARI comes from NIHAR MUN (i.e. gross mouth before brushing your teeth.. don’t ask me why). So, typically Nihari is cooked overnight or the day before. I try to fulfill this tradition and pay homage to this Mughal dish by letting it sit overnight. I find that the meat and the gravy just meld better if I do this extra step. So, I turn off the stove after 4 hours, let it sit right on the stove (pre-cat) or just pop it in an unheated oven (post-cat). I do not put the hot pot straight in the fridge while it is hot. However, if you live in a warm climate, I would recommend letting it cool down and put it in the fridge… or cook it all in one day i.e. start early in the morning to get that slow cook.
What kind of bones and cut of meat do I need for this Slow Cooked Nihari?
We personally buy boneless beef with little fat cut into 4-5 inch cubes. The beef needs to be chunky, because the slow cook will lead to that beautiful disintegration of the chunks into smaller bite sized pieces of Nihari perfection. For bones, most butchers sell these at an extra cost. I personally don’t care about bone marrow, but if you get bones with the marrow – those are bonus points! I use a proportion of 2:1 for beef:bones. In this recipe I had 2 kg beef, and 1 kg bones.
So, here we are. I have divulged all my Nihari secrets, and you are at the edge of your seat waiting for the recipe. Here we go!
Pakistani Nihari – Slow Cooked to PerfectionCourse: MainDifficulty: Medium
2 kg boneless beef cut into 4-5 inch cubes
1 kg bones
2 packs Shan Nihari Masala
1 cup canola oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups water
2-3 L of water
4 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
Ginger – julienned
Cilantro – chopped finely
1 onion sliced
- Heat oil in a big heavy bottomed pot
- Once oil is hot, add in ginger garlic paste.
- Add in beef cubes and bones , and cook them for 5 minutes until they get a nice sear/cook on them
- Mix in both packets of masala, and cook further for 1-2 minutes
- Add 2-3 liters of water, or however much gravy you want to keep.
- Let everything come to a boil. Meanwhile mix 1 cup flour and 2 cups water to make a flour slurry.
- Once the pot has started to boil, slowly add in the flour slurry.
- At this point, put the heat down to a low simmer, slide the lid on so that there is a little opening and let this beauty cook for 8-12 hours. You will need to give it a stir every hour or so, and adjust the heat if you notice anything sticking. Also, the flour is meant to thicken the gravy and you may need to add 1-2 L more water as you cook, or if you are cooling it over night and restarting like I do.
- When ready to serve Nihari, heat 1/4 cup oil in a frying pan and brown 1 sliced onion. Pour this “bhagar” on top of the nihari serving dish to add more flavour. You can skip this step if you like.
- Enjoy with piping hot naan, garnished with julienned ginger, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.