The alleys of Matia Mahal, under the shadow of Jama Masjid, are redolent of morning meals. Opt for paya-nihari.
Try Jawahar Hotel on the main street, a few paces away from Jama Masjid. The nihari (Rs 90) and paya (Rs 90) glisten in a pool of oil. The roti (Rs. 3) is fresh off the tandoor. The extra plate of lime wedges, chopped chillies, and slivered ginger completes the meal.
The boneless mutton nihari is supple. The garlicky gravy, spiced with javitri and dhaniya, is hearty. Its warmth is believed to have restorative qualities. True. Each bite infuses the body with a vigor that easily explains why nihari happens to be a morning food for the ‘working-class’ men. The delicacy originated in the genteel dastarkhwans of Delhi, before it percolated down to other classes, following the fall of the Mughal Empire.
Like the nihari, paya(trotters), is a satisfying winter dish prepared in a similar fashion — simmered overnight until the marrow is softened and the bones free of gelatin. I’m told that two cooks start their nihari preparation in the freezing cold of the night. They leave as the sun rises.Their tough job is worthwhile. This is truly a kingly breakfast that has long outlived the kings.
Nihari stalls you mustn’t miss Jawahar Hotel 9-10 Matia Mahal (23269241, 7am-11am); Karim’s 16 Gali Kababiyan, Jama Masjid (23269880, 7am-9pm); Kallu Nihari Shop No. 80; Chattan Lal Mian Jama Masjid (6am to 7.30am); Haji Noora, near Hindu Rao Hospital (7am-9am); Haji Shabrati Nihariwale Shop No. 722; Haveli Azam Khan, Jama Masjid (6am-9am).