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Abhik and I decided to revisit the Bara Hindu Rao area today in our quest for Haji Noora’s Nihari, a quest in which we had been stymied once before, when we had gone the day after Eid-ul-Fitr only to find the shop closed on account of the festivities. The whole area was much more lively today, and it took much resolve and thick skin to resist the temptations on offer on the way to the intended nihari shop — several little shops selling everything from tea-and-rusks to khastaa kachoris to poori-aloo to haleem teased our senses from every direction.
Not for us, though. With a gleam in the eye that anyone other than a compatriot foodie would have diagnosed as decidedly manic, we strode into the lane that we knew was home to Haji Noora. As a kindly old man had informed us last time, there had been a recent falling-apart in the Haji’s family, with an upstart nephew having set up a separate (and bigger) shop nearby, claiming to be the “Asli” nihari al-noora. Upturning our noses in the finest khandani tradition thus, we turned the corner from this shop to head to a relatively nondescript shop with no signboard, but marked out clearly by a salivating crowd at its entrance. Haji Noora’s nihari shop is not a “family-oriented” place. If you take your aged relatives along, or indeed Abhik, their joints will protest as they are forced to squat on the dari on the ground. An arrangement lacking tables, however, is only a favour to the teeming nihari connoiseurs who land up at the crack of dawn at Haji Noora’s door — how else could so many fit into so small a space? Nor is this shop one to take bosses from your “reputable multinational” (as many a desi orkutter proudly calls his slave-drivers) — they are likely to balk at the sight of less than spic-and-span seating places. Which is just as well, because only the discerning foodie whose tastebuds and nose reign supreme deserves to partake of the food concocted by Haji Noora’s son and heir. The nihari was quite literally, sublime. Spicy, as good nihari ought to be, it seemed to turn from solid into liquid into a mere scent in your mouth in the blink of an eye. While I haven’t had nihari all my life, having sampled it at Sabri Nihari in Chicago, at Waris in Lahore, and at Karim’s near Jama Masjid just last week, I pretend to some knowledge of what good — nay great — nihari tastes like. I can safely assure you that Haji Noora’s khandani concoction leaves the rest dead in the water. Or in the desi ghee, if you wish. Like all great things, this too was something not much money is needed to buy. Abhik and I polished off three plates of nihari and four tandoori rotis in a matter of minutes, and all of it totted up to fifty rupees. I’ll say no more; you have to go and have it yourself. We did follow up the breakfast with some good tea at a nearby shop (Moinuddin tea stall) and some even better sooji-ka-halwa (two plates for ten rupees!) at another nameless breakfast shop owned by a certain Mohd. Zaheer sa’ab. Satisfying as they may have been, their memories are already fading behind those of the nihari. So wake early on the morrow my friend, and hasten to Bara Hindu Rao! For as Kabir had said, surely after a mouthful at Haji Noora’s ancestral haven, “jo sovat hai, so khovat hai”!
Location: The Bara Hindu Rao area is a five minute cycle-rickshaw ride from the Pul Bangash metro station. You will need to ask around for the shop once you get there. Alternatively, take a look at our Google Map!
Timings: about 6:30am to 8:30am and 5pm to 7pm everyday. Remains closed for about 3 days after Eid-ul-Fitr and about 8-10 days after Eid-ul-Adha (Bakri Eid).
Prices: It is difficult to spend more then Rs. 35 per person for a meal. [updated March 22, 2009]