Now you might be thinking that bacon and eggs is a full-of-protein and heavily-meaty breakfast…
I think I can guarantee your outlook will change, after your first time to have ‘nihari‘!
Nihari is a rich stew from the Indian subcontinent, loaded with fall apart tender meat, ladles of desi ghee (clarified butter), and a few extra goodies like bone marrow or brains.
When you’re in Pakistan, nihari is the breakfast of champions, and Lahore is one of the best places to eat it.
So. You’re in Pakistan. Things are Looking Great.
You’re waking up in the exciting city of Lahore. Things are already going very well, because it means you have a chance to wake up to have Nihari.
When it comes to Pakistani cuisine, this dish is a champion. I would easily consider it a contender for one of the ‘Best Breakfasts I’ve ever had Anywhere in the World.’
We had Nihari a few times, and I must say that my worldview was changing a little bit each time. My favorite of all though, was in the Gawalmandi Market area, at Waris Nihari, open since 1960.
Nihari is like a mellow spice filled stew – the chef frying heaps of dry spices in vegetable oil and animal fat. Stirring ingredients all together in a pot so large that the chef has to stand on a chair, it was so exciting to peer over the side and look in on the stew.
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The consistency is oozing and thick, full of ultra-tender chunks of meat literally floating in desi ghee, all colored a deep red from so much spiced oil.
The thing I love so much about the Lahori version of this dish (and pretty much every other edible in Lahore) is the liberal amount of desi ghee present in every stage of creation.
Liberal Portions of Sizzling Hot Desi Ghee
Just before serving, another smaller metal pan of desi ghee is heating separately, infused with ginger, and the chef ladles on the sizzling rich butter, hissing as it hits whichever chunk of meat is lucky enough to be on top.
Tender Strips of Beef Shank and Rich Masala
Usually using beef shank, each strip is so tender you can literally pull it apart using only a spoon. Besides beef, it is also popular to have the dish with mutton – which in Pakistan is actually goat meat.
Its always a good idea to taste-test before seasoning, whether its a simple soup broth full of noodles you’re eating, or this mini-breakfast platter of beef – at Waris Nihari you can feel the thick texture of the stew, almost gravy like, taste it and enjoy the accents of nutmeg, fennel, and black pepper, before you add on more seasoning yourself.
One of the greatest reasons to eat nihari, along with being a hardcore dose of meat and butter, is truly the seasoning – so now its time to add in huge amounts of ginger, chilies, and finally a squeeze of the juice from a lime or two.
The seasoning really bumps up the flavor, and gives this already amazing dish a contrast that’s nothing less than mind-blowing.
Nalli Nihari (Brains) is Not For The Faint of Heart
The richness of Nihari is simply hard to describe.
This is not a dish for the faint of heart, but nor is it a dish that needs to strike fear to those travelers who may be wary of eating street food.
The water and oil in the curry broth boil for hours (maybe even a day!), easily killing any harmful bacteria that may be inside. Aside from (at times) excessive amounts of oil or butter, Nihari is a clean food.
Each plate of Nihari costs anywhere from 500-800 PKR (US$4-6), our entire meal at Waris Nihari cost 2400 PKR (fresh and puffy tandoori roti comes with the meal free of charge).
Surely for any residents of Lahore, but in my opinion any traveler out there serious about breakfasts of hearty food, nihari stands out among a long list of foods worth waking up for.
For me, Nihari is even a dish worth traveling for, and I hope you add it to your ‘Food Bucket List’ today.
And here, let me just take another opportunity to thank our friend Ali Naqi Hamdani from Pakistan Travel Mart.
Thanks to Ali, not only for his incredible restaurant selections in Lahore, but also for his help in making our entire trip to Pakistan possible.
Address: 7 Abkari Rd, Urdu Bazar Anarkali, Lahore, Punjab 54000, Pakistan (google map)
Open hours: 8 am – 2 am daily (may close in the middle of the day)
Prices: We had 3 bowls and plenty of accompaniments for 2400 PKR