As Pakistan’s national day dawns upon the nation and its diaspora, many will be feasting on a hot bowl of the nation’s national dish, nihari. 

Amidst the grandeur of ceremonies and parades for the national day, it is the aroma of a quintessential Pakistani dish, nihari, that beckons people from all walks of life to come together and celebrate the Pakistan as a nation. 

Nihari traces its origins to the kitchens of the Mughal emperors, where it was savored as a breakfast fit for royalty. 

The term “nihari” finds its roots in the Arabic word “nahaar”, meaning morning. This suggests its intended consumption as the initial meal of the day, but it is enjoyed at any time. Tradition holds that it was traditionally served after the Fajr namaz, the Islamic morning prayer. 

Nihari’s preparation

Image: Sarkar Sayantan / Wikimedia Commons.

It’s ingredients are simple, beef or lamb, often with bones, providing flavor and texture to the dish; spices including coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper, among others; finely chopped onions; ginger and garlic; and wheat flour to thicken the gravy.

Making the dish requires patience as it requires slow cooking – think melt-in-your-mouth meat.

The dish undergoes a tender transformation, traditionally in a “shab degh”, or a large pot emblematic of overnight cooking. It will take around six to eight hours for the meat to delicately unravel, simmering over a low flame. 

Meanwhile, a mix of flour, aromatic spices, and oil is carefully added to thicken the gravy. This all culminates in a tantalizingly spicy, sumptuously rich, and deeply satisfying sauce.

Nihari’s presentation is incomplete without garnishes. These range from lemon wedges and chopped cilantro, to balance the opulence of the gravy, or julienned ginger strips to add a taught kick. Each element contributes to a symphony of taste sensations. 

Alongside its garnishes, each bite of nihari brings forth a harmonious blend of spicy, refreshing, and invigorating flavors.

*Diplomatic Network (Asia) wishes all Pakistanis a happy national day.