Nihari belongs to the Muslim Nawab culture of Old Delhi…a decadent and indulgent breakfast dish that was slow cooked all night and eaten right after the morning prayer.
The very name Nihari is derived from the root ‘nihar’ which means early morning.
Traditionally it was a stew cooked with beef or lamb meat with bones and bone marrow added for extra richness and flavour. Nowadays the quick and lighter version made with chicken is getting quite popular.
Don’t get intimidated by the long list of ingredients…basically they are dry spices that go into the grinder together to make the special Nihari spice mix. You can double or triple the quantity and save the spice mix in an airtight jar for future use. If you have this masala ready to use then making Nihari is merely a child’s play.
You can replace chicken with lamb or beef with the same recipe, just increase the quantity of water and cooking time because we want very, very tender morsels of meat at the end.
When I’m not in a hurry I prefer to cook it slow on very low heat but, unfortunately, I’m usually in a hurry so I grab the pressure cooker.
If you are preparing it ahead of time for a party, or freezing it to be used later then skip adding flour mix to the stew. Add flour mix when you defreeze and reheat it for a more fresh taste and look.
The dominant flavours in the stew come from fennel and dry ginger, if you can’t find dry ginger/soonth where you live…you can wash, peel and sundry the ginger yourself easily…takes around a week to dry out.
Tarka completes Nihari and tones down the spiciness, so that’s highly recommended. Recently I’ve switched to cooking Nihari in olive oil and it tastes just as great as with ghee.

For Chicken Nihari, Breakfast, Stew :

1 kg chicken cut ups
1/4 cup olive oil or ghee ( clarified butter)
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 teaspoons fennel (Saunf)
1/2 inch piece Dry Ginger (Soonth)
1 tsp black pepper (Kali Mirch)
2 tsp. cumin seeds (Zeera)
5 cloves (Laung)
2 black cardamom (Bari Ilaichi)
1 stick of cinnamon (Dalchini)
2 dried bay leaves (Tezpatta)
1 nutmeg (Jaiphal)
1 teaspoon mace (Javitri)
2 tbs. coriander (Dhaniya) seeds
1+1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
4 tablespoons wheat flour or cornmeal

For Tarka :

3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1 small onion, chopped

For Garnishing :
Julienned ginger
Chopped green chilli peppers
Lemon wedges
Garam masala powder

This Is What You Do :

Add all the dry spices to food processor or dry mill , grind to make a fine powder.
Heat oil in a deep pan, add chicken cut ups, fry till golden on outside.
Mix the ground spices with a little water to make a paste.
Add the paste to the chicken and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add 6 cups of water, cover the pan and reduce heat.
Let it cook on low heat for 30-35 minutes or till the water is reduced to half and chicken very tender.
Or you can pressure cook it for 15 minutes.
Dilute the wheat/corn flour in 1/2 water to make a smooth paste.
Add this paste to the Nihari, while stirring constantly till the gravy thickens slightly.
Cover and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
Fry onions in oil/ghee till golden brown. Pour this tarka over Nihari right before serving.
Serve hot with naan.

5 Replies to “Chicken Nihari, Breakfast, Stew”

  1. As Salaamu Alaikum . Ramadan Mubarak! Please advise if recipe stays then same when substituting the chicken with beef?

    1. Waalakum assalam Umm Sahib! The taste will be somewhat different, less rich, but I can guarantee it shall still be very tasty. 😊
      Also if you like beef, you can use the same recipe for beef too. Just cook longer.

  2. Maria, this looks like another great recipe. Being a lover of Indian/ Pakistani food the list of spices are a staple in my kitchen. I do like the addition of the bones and marrow in the traditional version. I know from making Vietnamese broths how incredible the flavours are that come from the boiling of bones. Looking forward to trying this one. Nick.

    1. Hi Nick, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you 🙂 …you are right about adding the bones to broths and stews, they add so much depth to flavour. My personal favourite is the beef version but this is a more popular and kids friendly version with chicken. How awesome that you have all the South Asian Spices in your pantry ! I’ll look forward to your feedback. Your appreciation means a lot !

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