Friday, November 14, 2008

Cantonment food of the Mughals : Nahari

Imagine eating Shanks of Meat cooked to a tender mish mash of meat , gravy and flavours with rotis early in the morning for break fast. Welcome to the world of Nahari, Paya (Kharode in Punjabi and Trotter's Gravy or stew in English) Halim. Why in heaven would anybody start the day with a bang (meat, spices, fat) with thick rotis.

Most urban sensibility, would say, can't handle such stuff in the morning, maybe after a bout of mindless drinking, such spicy and flavour full food is okay. Hang on, Nahari at the crack of dawn was not designed for you and me. It was designed as Lashkari Khana (Cantonment food), for the robust medieval soldier of the armies of the Turko Afghans, Persian Invaders and armies on the move, an animal (a large one, could feed a few hundreds). The added flavour and the fix of carbohydrates would sustain the soldiers till the evening meal.
Nahari, the traditional early in the morning breakfast has a home in the Muslim residential areas. Its a dish cooked in Degh (as big as 500 litre water tank), shanks of beef (thigh), cooked to a consistency of a gravy or paste with over 36 spices and laden with fat called "ghee".The well known artisans are in Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal ,Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkatta. I am sure there are hidden ones in Barielly, Kanpur, Aligarh and several other medieval cantonments of India.
My first and extreme experience was a few weeks ago in Delhi. The famous Nahari joints (cannot call them restaurants, which are based on the precincts of the walled city, each precinct has one famous one) apart from Karims are Haji Noora, Sarabati, Kallu Nahari, Siddique etc.I joined a group of enthusiasts from a community called eating out in Delhi. We met at the crack of dawn at 7 am at the metro station Pul Bangash took a short trek to Bara Hindu Rao area and not the hospital (headed to Filmistan, a road adjacent to the mouth of Bahadurgarh road) lead me to Haji Noora. He is known as the high priest of Nahari, has been around for nearly three to four decades in this avtaar I am sure its an ancestral art from the times of Babur and before).
We step into Haji Noora's cook house cum eatery, remove shoes and settle in with a melee of morning breakfasters, ranging from (us Discovery Channel types, is what we are referred to), to beggars, chowkidaars, shopkeepers, workers and enthusiasts. We crowd in, the Head of Nahari service Shaifuddin (serving it with utmost arrogance) asks with ghee or without. We say, without, its already swimming in fat. Head of Rotis, regards us with a little circumspection (Discover Channel Types you know), serves Rotis as they come out of the Tandoor (an army of people at the assembly line of rotis). After six Naharis and Rotis and a princely sum of Rs 144/- as the bill, we immerse in the eating.
My enthusiasm does not allow me to overcome the lack of hygiene (which reminds me of my grandfather and then, my mothers quote, Food- cooked by a muslim chef in hindu kitchen served on the table in english style). As muslims khansamas, are legendary in their cooking prowess, hindu kitchens are known for the cleanliness and the British in the pre partition India were known for the table service). The Nahari is at best a very spicy and a flavourfull gravy with very tender and pulverised paste of the meat and marrow. Its served in a chipped white enamel bowl, with Maida rotis which are nice. They have run out of Nalli Nahari and are soon running out of Nahari Its only 7.45 am The room has green paint and an old framed article from a hindi newspaper. All the workers clothes and belongings in nooks and crannies. Its an experience try it.

We walk out and have something sweet Suji (semolina) Halwa (like fudge) , with a piece of a massive Puri, its served as, some halwa on this bed of puri or Bhatura. Its sweet and its Rs 10/- per pop or person. Its well well below my under Rs 100/- local exotica (eating out guide of a salesman) this was at Rs 34/- a person. For nearly bRs 210/- six persons ate well. This is in October 2008 with an all time high inflation in India. Which goes back to my earlier post on cost of Muslim food, its got to do with the propensity to pay by the, largely muslim clientele and the economies of scale of large volumes in Muslim eateries in India.
Now, to all the Nahari enthusiasts, spot the Haji Noora outlets in pictures 1, 2, 3 or 4. Will write more on the food of the contemporary Indian soldier.
So Long !


Syed Mohammad Qasim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Syed Mohammad Qasim said...

A mouth watering discription .Good write up .I am sure you would have enjoyed the time .

Tarun said...

Great piece mate ... keep up the good work.

Praveen said...

this one was very well written.
thouroughly enjoyed.

please add more pics...give recipes..

lots of love

Anonymous said...

samil: could you credit the first photo? it's mine, and posted here:

thanks :)