Our previous recipes focused on the flavors of Spain, France, Ireland and Italy; for our next installment, we take you to the Indian subcontinent. Nihari is a spicy meat stew first created in the palaces of northern India. Traditionally, nihari slow-cooks overnight, but this recipe speeds things up a bit. Like most recipes, you’re free to substitute ingredients as you please, but there are two parts of our nihari recipe that we think are essential: 1) soup bones, and 2) a process known variously as chaunk, vaghaar, popu or tarka.
Chaunk is onomatopoetic: it refers to the sound made by whole spices as they are fried in oil or, more traditionally, a clarified butter known as ghee. This recipe calls for easier-to-find spice powders, but feel free to try your hand at authentic chaunk-ing. Just heat oil or butter in a pan, toss in whole spices for long enough to make them pop and then add the tempered oil to your nihari just before it’s served. Do not add the chaunk directly to the pot of nihari; rather, drizzle some of the oil over each individual bowl of stew.
cooking time 3-4 hrs
1 lb. each stew beef and soup bones
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tsp. garlic paste
1 tbsp. each ginger powder and anise/fennel powder
1 tsp. each red chili powder and turmeric powder
salt to taste
1. In a large cooking pot, heat oil and add onions. Fry until onions golden brown.
2. Add garlic paste to the pot and fry briefly.
3. Add soup bones and meat. Sear until meat browned.
4. Add spices and salt to taste, then fry with meat for couple of minutes. When the spices begin to release their aroma, move on to the next step.
5. Add three cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. After five minutes, reduce heat to low.
6. Mix the flour and 1 cup of water in a separate bowl to make a paste. Whisk this paste into the pot and stir continuously for 10 minutes.
7. Cover the pot and let it cook on low heat for 3-4 hours, or until meat is tender.
8. Serve in bowls and eat with roti or basmati rice.
9. Garnish nihari with cilantro, fried onions, green chilies and ginger strips. If you’re using the chaunk technique, add the tempered oil to each bowl just before serving.
For garnish (optional):
- 3-4 chopped green chilies
- chopped cilantro
- fresh ginger root, chopped in strips
- 1 medium onion, sliced and fried brown