Sir-e-Paaya ki Nihari

It snowed here very heavily this year on Eid-ul-Adha, and I thought it would be best to cook a warming and nourishing brunch for the next day in the morning. My father in law recalled his good old times while we were having Nihari as our breakfast. He recollected that when he was a school going kid, his father would ask him to get up very early if he would like to join him for a breakfast of Nihari at Shehran Hotel, beside Charminar in Hyderabad. He also added he always loved the Nihari at Shahran and devoured it and still remembers the scrumptious taste. Always so many memories associated with food.

Some of the traditional dishes prepared by muslims just after Qurbani on Eid-ul-Adha are Nihari, Maghaz MasalaOrgan meat and various kinds of the red meat preparations from the Qurbani ka gosht.

Nihari, also sometimes referred to as Nahari or Sir-e-Paaya (plural is Sir-e-paaye) (sir means head and paaya means legs), is a rich broth, made out the bones and meat of a sheep or lamb’s cheek and head bones and the tongue meat and shanks. It has a special mention in the must-taste list of travelers visiting the city around Eid. In Hyderabad, after the Qurbani, my father would take the sheep’s head and feet to the butcher for further preparations so that we could prepare Nihari. The butcher used to roast the ‘whole head with skin and hairs on’ (sir) and the legs (paaya) in open fire to kill all the disease-causing agents if present, and to burn the hairs, and roast the skin to intensify its flavors. The butcher would then scrape off the burnt hairs, discard the waste parts and whack them all up into small pieces. The meat from the sheep’s cheeks is substantial and most tender and delectable. Its tongue takes a longer time to get cooked, but is a delicacy. The butchers here in Toronto do sell the head and legs of the sheep, but with the skin removed. The real taste of the Nihari is due to the fire roasted skin which is not available here, so I really enjoy the true Nihari whenever I visit my parents in Hyderabad.

Nihari prepared using fire-roasted lamb trotters and head pieces with skin

Nihari is prepared by boiling or slow cooking the sheep bones and meat along with a range of ambrosial spices and herbs. Earlier, people used to slow cook it on coal in large pots the whole night long, until the broth was thick and flavorsome by morning ready for the breakfast, the the bones so soft you can literally chew them. Today, women use pressure cookers to save time.

The Hyderabadi Potli ka Masala or bouquet garni for Nihari contains a mixture of around 20 or more aromatic herbs and exotic spices which are tied in a muslin cloth and tossed into the saucepan to infuse wonderful flavors and a beautiful fragrance into the boiling broth. The Potli ka Masala contains but is not limited to spices such as:

1. Coriander seeds  (Dhaniya)
2. Bayleaf  (Tej Patta)
3. Sandalwood powder (Sandal ka powder)
4. Stone Flowers (Pathar ka Phool)
5. Star Anise (Dagad Phool)
6. Dried Rose Petals (Sukhe Gulab ke Phool)
7. Roots of the Betel plant  (Paan ki jad)
8. Black Peppercorns (Sabut Kali Mirch)
9. Chinese Cubeb (Kawabchini)
10. Spiked Ginger Lily (Kapoor Kachri)
11. Black Cardamom (Badi Elaichi)
12. Salt (Namak)
13. Garam Masala
14. Cinnamon sticks (Dalchini)
15. Fennel seeds (Saunf)
16. Cloves (Laung)
17. Mace
18. Cumin seeds (Zeera)
19. Roasted Chana Dal (Phula Chana)
20. Dried Vetevier roots (Khas ki Jad)

Ready made Potli Ka Masala from a store in Hyderabad,
containing various aromatic dried herbs and spices

You do not have to go searching for all these herbs to make your own Potli ka Masala. It is available ready made at many specialty stores in Hyderabad, especially in the Old city, a 25 gm potli ka masala costs around 10 Indian Rupees per packet. This Potli ka Masala or Nihari masala is also easily available in Indian grocery stores. I do not recommend buying the ‘Nihari powder’ from the market, instead go for the one that also contains the whole spices. Use any of the brands that you get your hands on. In the ready made Potli Ka Masala packets available in the markets, there is again a small packet inside called as the Nihari Masala powder, which consists of the powdered masala  used in the second stage in the cooking process for Nihari.
What I do is, whenever I visit Hyderabad, I buy many packets from Hyderabad and get them with me here, so that they last me a long time, and freeze them to store and use whenever fancied.

Almost every household in Hyderabad prepares Nihari as breakfast or brunch at the second or third day of Eid. Nihari is enjoyed by sousing soft and warm Kulcha or Naan or Paratha, or by dunking in crusty breads into the highly flavored and nourishing broth containing all the goodness.

Nihari, prepared using deskinned lamb trotters,
served along with warm Parathas in the Hot-Pot

Nihari is always prepared out the head bones, tongue & cheek meat and the shanks or trotters of a lamb or a sheep. The traditional Nihari is never prepared of boneless lamb meat or chicken. However people add the same Nihari masala to chicken and boneless meat broths to simulate the dish in other simpler forms.

Sir-e-Paaye ki Nihari – Aromatic Slurpy Broth of Lamb Shanks and Cheek Meat

Ingredients:

4 legs and a head of a sheep – cleaned (and fire roasted if using the trotters with skin), and whacked into pieces + a sheep’s Tongue/Zabaan – cleaned (or) Lamb Shoulder meat with bone cut into big chunks – 1 kg
Potli ka Masala – half the quantity in a 25 gm packet
Red onion (or) Yellow Onion – 1, large, roughly chopped
Cornflour/Gram flour – 3/4 cup, mixed with a small amount of water to make a smooth paste
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – 2 1/4 tsp
Turmeric/Haldi – 1/4 tsp
Small green chillies – 6, each slit into half

For Tempering, Baghaar:

Canola oil – 2 tbsp
Yellow onion – 1, large, finely sliced
Ginger garlic paste – 1 1/2 tsp

For Garnish:

Cilantro – 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Ginger juliennes – 2 tsp
Lemon wedges – 1 cup
Saffron threads – a pinch
Lemon juice – 1/3 cup

Method:

1. Wash the sheep’s head bones, tongue and trotters or the shoulder meat in surplus water. Put them in a strainer for the water to drain away. Meanwhile, in a pressure cooker, add the roughly chopped red onion, the washed bones, tongue and trotters or the shoulder meat from the strainer and pour in 1.5 liter of water, red chilli powder and green chillies. Make a bouquet garni of the required amount of potli ka masala (not the powdered masala from the small packet, read about it above). Add this bouquet garni along with salt and turmeric and close the lid to pressure cook until the meat is tender. Later, open the lid and add corn/gram flour paste. Half cover the lid and let it slow cook for 15 minutes more. The broth is ready. Cover with lid and keep aside
2. During that time, prepare the baghaar. Take a medium sized non-stick frying pan at medium high heat and pour oil into it. Throw in the sliced onions, and stir fry them until they are golden brown in colour. Now add the ginger garlic paste to the fried onions and fry it along for about 2 minutes more stirring continously. Remove the pan from heat and keep aside.
3. Just before you are ready to serve it to everyone, add half the quantity of the nihari masala powder from the small packet of the store brought potli ka masala, and the baghaar to the broth in the pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Lift out the bouquet garni and squeeze it thoroughly. Discard it later. Let it cook half covered for 15 more minutes. Close the heat and pour the Nihari into a large serving bowl. Add lemon juice, saffron threads and ginger juliennes. Serve the lemon wedges in a separate small cup if anyone wishes for an extra zing. Enjoy!

Suggested Accompaniments: Enjoy Nihari along with warm Parathas or Naan for a sumptuous breakfast.

Luv,
Mona

Leave a Reply

  1. Asalamalaikum mona.. i regular read ur recipes… im from hyd too n migrating to canada soon inshallah… whenever i cook traditional hyd recipes i visit ur page.. i like kachche akhni ki biryani recipe with smoked twist and it tastes really delicious.. thanks to u.. i wud like to be ur frnd n it will be a gr help thr in canada
    jazakallah

  2. Dear Mona,

    Can I replace the siri with something else? Can we have a recipe only for paya?

    Please… Please… Please…

    aseem

    Aseem, you can use lamb shoulder or leg meat with or without meat if you want to avoid using the lamb head or legs. You can even use the same recipe for preparing Nihari with only paya.

  3. Asak Mona,

    I do tested by the same thing, but the meat was not soft enough so i went on with the whistles..anyways, will try again,hopefully it will be done this time….

    WaAlaiKumAsSalaam Humera, the bones do take some time to cook properly, but not more than half hour if pressure cooked.

  4. Asak Mona,

    I have a strange doubt…hope u will not be amused with it..i prepared nihari few days back,it was good, but u will not believe it took almost 30-35 whistles for the leg bones or paya as we call it to get soft..i lost my patience over it,want to prepare again..but thinking twice!so my question is can we tenderize the paaya using the tenderizer?

    WaAlaiKumAsSalaam Humera, I wonder why it took you so long and so many whistles for the Nihari to get cooked. You have to test the meat that is attached to the bones if the meat has become tender, then the Nihari is ready. Later the remaining cooking will make the bones tender too. Paya are never tenderized using a tenderizer, simply pressure cooked or slow cooked for a while until the meat is tender.

  5. Salam ms mona well i have seen preparation of your nihari, please note that when you add besen we call it nahari ki kadi else add dry fruit paste.

  6. as Salamu alaykum Mona Sister,

    I am very new to Hyderabadi cooking, as I am from deep southern India :) I had my first Nihari when I came to US before 4 years and from then I am hooked to its taste. But believe me, I have never handled or cooked lamb or beef till now. But this Eid, we got some beef and I used half of it for t pickle in your site, now I thought to use the remaining 1 lb for Nihari. How can I? The city where I live has very very little shan masala packets. I can search for Niahri masala from it, but is it the same process for Beef also? Pl let me know. Thank you.

    wa Salam,

    WaAlaiKumAsSalaam Umm Omar, you can use beef/veal as well, but lamb meat is recommended for this preperation.

  7. Salaam alaikum Mona. Great recipe. Please post the recipe for kalimirchi ka gosht if you havent posted already. Jazak Allah Khair.

    WaAlaiKumAsSalaam Fatima, you request is duly noted.

  8. can i make these with only lamb trotters? is that paya, right? i.e. paya and some meaty pieces(shanks). i have never tasted tongue so im not sure. i want to omit it… please guide me.

    Sana, you can only use lamb trotters (paya), or even simply large chunks of meat with bones if paya is unavailable for this dish. Skip tongue if you do not like it.

  9. Assalaam alikum Mona your recepies are too good,I am also in the line waiting for Hyderabadi spicy CHAAKNA Receipe
    Jazakumullah Khair.

  10. assalam alaikum &edd mubbarak u all mona i want to ask about what is kalha josh aur gosht (hyderabadi dish-i dont know but i hear from my elders pls mention and i am waiting for ur chakkana recipe thanking u your recipes is vvvvvvvv yummy i il try ur some recipes

    WaAlaiKumAsSalaam Mrs Azeem, Eid Mubarak to you too! I am sorry I am not aware of the dish you are talking about. ~Mona

  11. chaakna sounds so good i used to eat a lot at opp to yusouf baba ki dargha at nampally the place used to call pasha bhai ki hotel

  12. Just Brilliant
    my Favorite dish. But i cant get potli ka masala in U.K?
    Thank you for this is there a PAYA recipe on this site ?
    Regards

  13. Can anyone please tell me where in the United States (pref. San Francisco area) I can find this potli masala? Other alternatives can be in canada (Toronto or Calgary)

    Brother Ahmed, you should look for Potli ka Masala at Indian or Pakistani stores. They should have it. In case of its non-availability, you can always prepare one of your own. The cookbook ‘Royal Hyderabadi Coking’ by Sanjeev Kapoor has the recipe with exact measurements for it. You could also request any of your friends from Hyderabad to get a few for you. ~Mona

  14. assalam alaikum ………..mona first time i try ur fish manchuria recipe my all family members like it………………insh i il try ur all recipes …..if u got chaakna recipe pls inter it thanking u

  15. hello monajee, this recipe reminds me my mama. my mama was excellent cook and she used to take these all pains to prepare this type of recipe. i m very thankfull for giving such detailed, elbrately explained recipe. thankss

  16. Asak mona…loving ur posts ..right time ur posting them…i too was planning to post nihari this week …mine is almost the same recipe…it damm chill here…so plan to make nihari inshallh this weekend…

  17. hey Mona!Your Nihaari looks superb! i too have fond memories of Nihari, never prepared it myself though,didnt get a chance to learn,inshallah will make using ur recipe, and talking about shehraan, whenever we went for shopping in the old city, we always got a parcel from shehran of that sinfully heavy paratha and seekh kabab and devoured it at home….

  18. lovely recipe,Mona
    Thnx for the detailed insight on the potli ka masala too!!
    By the way I dint knw that it was cooked with the bones of the head etc…..I only knew that they add the tongue to it!!
    By the way, I hope you had a great Eid and looking forward to some more great recipes too!!
    Also , I wanted to suggest that you provide a link back to the organ meat recipe, you had posted on last year’s eid made with phepsa and all, so that ur blog visitors can devour all the “bakrid special” recipes at one go!!!