Nihari: Cooking to Pakistan with Nur

I had a bit of a hiatus, but I am back and ready to travel the world again in my kitchen. I jumped right back in, making Pakistani food with my friend Nur.

Cooking with friends. :-)
Cooking with friends. 🙂

Nur and I met back in college at our school newspaper when we were both but wee children. Nur’s family is from Pakistan, and she is also an awesome cook, always posting photos of the exotic foods she makes at home. When I stayed with her in California last week, I asked her if we could make a Pakistani dish for the blog. Thankfully, she agreed! Cooking with friends is awesome.

Putting everything in the magical instrument that is the pressure cooker.
Putting everything in the magical instrument that is the pressure cooker.

Nur presented me with a lot of options. But nihari, a curry-like dish made with either beef shank, lamb, or goat meat, is one of her favorites. We chose beef shank because it was readily available at the store (and also so cheap), but if you aren’t a red meat eater, feel free to substitute.

In the recipe, for reference, javetri is mace (yes, that kind). We found it at the regular grocery in powder form. Jaifel is nutmeg, and Saunf is star anise. See, nothing impossible to track down.

Nur thickening the gravy.
Nur thickening the gravy.

Usually, Nur said, this dish takes all day. But, we weren’t the best of planners that day, so we opted to use the pressure cooker. Nur called her mom for a few last-minute instructions, and we began chopping.

From left, Nur's husband, my boyfriend, and Nur each enjoy a heaping bowl of nihari.
From left, Nur’s husband, my boyfriend, and Nur each enjoy a heaping bowl of nihari.

This recipe took us about an hour (or slightly less than two episodes of Fuller House) to finish in the pressure cooker, allowing for the cooking and then gravy thickening. Nur was quite pleased with the results of the pressure cooker, and was especially delighted that fall-apart meat could be achieved in a much shorter time.

Nur demonstrates how to eat nihari, sans fork.
Nur demonstrates how to eat nihari, sans fork.

When eating nihari, Nur says the proper way is to pick up a dollop with a piece of naan, without utensils. She and my boyfriend were extremely skilled at getting only minimally dirty when doing this. Nur’s husband and I managed to get nihari gravy all over our hands even while using spoons. Hmm. There must be something to this not using a spoon thing.

I used a spoon. I still got messy.
I used a spoon. I still got messy.

Nihari has all the wonderful spices I love from southeast Asia: cumin, coriander, clove, ginger, cardamom. It is extremely satisfying and belly-warming. Even though all of us at the table can handle our spice, Nur chopped up serrano peppers, extra ginger and cilantro for each of us to add at our leisure. (Guess which one I did not add).

Nihari with naan and a bit of saag.
Nihari with naan and a bit of saag.

The best part was scooping out the marrow from the bone and spreading it on the naan bread. Yes, we had an actual discussion about who would get this tasty goodness, you guys. (There were only three). My boyfriend was sweet and relinquished one to me.

Needless to say, at the end of the night, we were all fat and happy, and my boyfriend requested that I make this again in the future. Give yourself a little party in your mouth: try out nihari from Pakistan.

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