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Serious foodies of the capital know that the streets of Old Delhi come alive in the early hours of the morning. It is during these hours that Nihari, a fragrant stew that has been simmering in pots throughout the night, cradling tender hunks of meat, is doled out to the hungry hordes. As you weave your way through the warren of streets in Old Delhi, the spicy aromas of Nihari, just being taken out of giant vessels, rush to envelope you. In fact, the busy streets of the walled city are crammed with tiny Nihari shops overflowing with locals who are armed with casseroles so that they can tuck into the stew in the comforts of their home. Jostling with them are legions of Nihari fans who have trekked from across the city to get their fill of the meaty broth.
For the true connoisseur, there is Kallu Nihari in Daryaganj which serves Nihari between the holy hours of 5 pm and 6:30 pm. The buffalo meat dish, considered one of the best in Delhi, is served in a wide metal plate and the stew is topped with a glistening film of fat as well as ginger juliennes mixed with slivers of green chillies.
A different scene unfolds at Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale in the Jama Masjid area where the meat will melt on your tongue like a knob of butter. Shabrati serves Buffalo Meat Nihari from 7 until 10 in the mornings and from 5 to 10 in the evenings. Indulgent diners, who undertake weekly treks from Noida, Gurgaon, Bareilly and Moradabad, can also customise their Nihari here by asking it to be tempered with ghee. Also, patrons can request for the addition of Nalli (bone marrow) or Magaz (brain) to their Nihari at this outlet.
A hot foodie destination in Zakir Nagar is the Purani Dilli Restaurant. Here you can gorge on a delicate Mutton Nihari Platter that is teamed with seriously fragrant Khameeri Rotis, the dough of which is kneaded with milk. The succulent mutton pieces sit pretty in a broth boasting of layers of flavours while the steel serving dish comes heaped with regulation ginger juliennes and green chillies. You can find the all-you-can-slurp bowls of Nihari (available in both mutton and chicken versions) here between 12 noon and 10:30 pm but be warned that you will only be served till stocks last.
Haji Noora Nihari
Haji Noora Nihari, which set up shop in 1966 in the Bara Hindu Rao neighbourhood is believed to have stopped legions of Nihari fiends in their tracks. Nihari, the star and only offering of the outlet, is ladled out into aromatic, steaming bowls to brave hearts who land up there at the crack of dawn (6 am - 8 am) and to indulgent foodies who throng the outfit during evenings (5:30 pm - 8:30 pm). You would be in the august company if you sample the Nihari here as the Pakistani cricket team has dropped by the outlet to savour its signature stew. Made from buffalo meat, the morning stew is cooked for an astounding 16 hours while the evening Nihari simmers for 10 hours. The Nihari experience can be heightened here by adding Nalli, Magaz and even a tempering of desi ghee at an extra cost.
If you are near Jama Masjid and are hungry, head to Hilal Hotel in Gali Madarasa for a bite of its hearty Nihari. The dish is available both during mornings (7 am - 12 noon) and evenings (6 pm - 11 pm). A sprinkle of garam masala and a jumble of green chillies and ginger sticks are all that you need to top your Nihari here. The piping bowl of buffalo meat stew is paired with Khameeri Roti for a complete meal.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your warming bowl of Nihari before winter comes to an end.
Susmita Saha is a Delhi-based Features Writer. She has worked as an Assistant Editor at India Today and The Telegraph and writes on arts and culture, films, travel, food, architecture, design and various other lifestyle subjects. She has seriously itchy feet and plans to tick the world off her bucket list, one burger at a time.