Nihari – The National Dish of Pakistan

Nihari – The National Dish of Pakistan

Pakistan may not be as old a country as some of its neighbours, but when it comes to cuisine, it has plenty of history and, as a result, some of the richest flavours. 

Often considered to be the national dish of Pakistan, Nihari is one dish that has benefited from multiple influences and staked a claim as a staple. This month at Lahore Karahi, we’ll talk to you about the history of the dish, what it takes to make it and some of the key ingredients.

You can find our own version of this classic Pakistani curry house dish on the Chef’s Speciality section of our menu – order now and find out for yourself why it’s so popular.

National Dish of Pakistan
National Dish of Pakistan – Nihari

The history of Nihari

Let’s start with the name, shall we? Those with a keen eye will surely see the connection to the Arabic word “Nihar”, which, translated, means “morning”. That connection is easy to understand when you learn that this is a dish that was eaten traditionally in the morning by the Nawabs (Muslim noblemen) after morning prayer (Fajr) in the Mughal Empire.

The reason it was so popular as a morning dish is because of the energy boost it gave, something that eventually endeared it to the working class. This is also why it’s a popular Eid dish!

1947 was an important date where Nihari is concerned, since it saw Pakistan gain independence, and with it came immigrants from Delhi, many of whom settled in Karachi and Lahore. They brought with them this dish, but of course, Pakistan has also been influenced in its cuisine by plenty of other nations, including Afghanistan, Persia and other Central Asian and Arabic countries. It’s this kind of melting pot of ideas that has helped shape Nihari and establish it as a one-of-a-kind dish.

Mixing the aristocratic origins with historic, local flavours – it’s a meal that is key to understanding the unique taste of Pakistani cuisine. 

Your stomach is already rumbling, so how is it cooked? 


How Nihari cooked

As with any dish, you’ll find individual twists and slight variations – it’s part of the charm. Traditionally, it’s a dish cooked overnight (linking back to it being a morning dish) to really let the flavours infuse the meat, but similar flavours can be achieved by simply slow cooking for long enough.

However you make it, the recipe will undoubtedly have plenty of dry spices cooked in oil and animal fat, while ghee is added along with the meat. The meat is usually lamb, on the bone, but you may also see it substituted for other meats such as mutton, beef, goat or even chicken. 

What you’re left with is tender, flavourful meat in a deep red-orange stew – a mouth-watering mix that words fail to describe.

To fully understand the pull this dish has, we can only recommend you try it from our menu – you won’t be disappointed! Check it out in the Chef’s Speciality section and find your flavour in this much-loved traditional Pakistani dish.

Book a table at our restaurant in London on Tooting High Street, or click and order now if you just can’t wait to try our version of Nihari.


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