Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nizamuddin 06: Nahari at Moniskda

[NB: This is part of an ongoing series on the Nizamuddin locality of New Delhi. For a brief background, please read the prefatory note.]

Nahari seems to be a recurring theme in this blog, almost a leitmotif. I confess I just love the stuff. Have never taken to Siri and Paya. Somehow, the very idea of head meat or trotters congealing in the cold puts me off. But a steaming bowl of Nahari gives me an almost ambrosial kick on foggy winter mornings. Or even on hot, humid July evenings, it turned out.

I had talked of Moradabadi Biryani in an earlier write-up. In this post, I continue from there. We had just come out of the Biryani shop somewhat undecided. The stuff we bought looked rather dry; the accompanying chutney didn't seem too appetising either. All of us present agreed the Biryani needed some sort of gravy to go with it.

Korma was vetoed outright. I looked for a Haleem-vendor. All I could find was a character selling repulsive yellow gunk from an aluminium Handi. I recalled having tried the same guy's stuff once, many years ago; it was so horrible I had to throw it away after a couple of mouthfuls. So that left Nahari, surely a strange combination with Biryani.

I've had Nahari in Nizamuddin before on several occasions. They have ranged from the OK to the downright insipid. But never yet had I come across anything even close to the awe-inspiring heights of Haji Noora's stuff. This time, I decided to ask around. People uninamously recommended Moniskda Hotel. Even Hanif Qureshi Sa'ab of Ghalib did, albeit after a long, tortuous interrogation why I was insane enough to want Nahari at this hour and in this weather.

Moniskda is located near the Mathura Road entrance to Basti Nizamuddin. After entering, one needs to take a left that goes past Zaeqa Hotel, once a favourite of mine. Past Zaeqa, one comes across a bunch of small eateries, including a pretty indifferent Wazwan shop. Moniskda is located somewhere there; one needs to ask around a bit. Business is usually transacted in the common open area fronting these shops. That's where most tables, chairs, cashiers' desks and all are located.

In the case of Moniskda, much of the foodstuff prepared beforehand was also kept out there; great saucepans mounted on a wooden platform. They sell a wide variety of curries - trotter, brain, kidney, liver, Ishtoo, Alu Gosht and Gobhi Gosht, made from both goat and buffalo. Nahari, however, is exclusively buffalo.

I asked for two plates of Nahari, and was charged Rs. 48. Twenty-four chips a plate did seem excessive, even with the addition of Ghee ka Tadka. Even the superlative Nahari from Haji Noora's cost only fifteen with Ghee. On the other hand, the helpings were substantial.

So how was the stuff? Haji Noora still reigns supreme, no two ways to it. That said, this stuff was pretty good. By far the best Nahari I've sourced from Nizamuddin. The meat was tender, juicy, and flaked easily. Slow-cooking precluded the need for marination. It was thus free of vinegary overtones.

The gravy was full-bodied, richly flavoured, and neither oily, nor greasy, nor excessively spicy. Most important, it was permeated with the taste of the meat. I could also detect clear notes of fennel, fenugreek, cumin, and maybe a touch of cilantro in the Masala used. It also had a sweetish aftertaste. (Did they add a touch of sugar to it?) Incidentally, it formed a surprisingly cohesive combination with the Biryani.

So why do I still insist on the superiority of Haji Noora? Perhaps the explanation lies in that mysterious, elusive quality called 'depth'. It is impossible to render this in words. Let's just say this. The Nahari at Moniskda was competent in every respect - good meat, rich gravy, the right spices, proper stewing time, and so on. But the final outcome amounted to little more than the sum of all these factors put together.

In the case of Haji Noora, on the other hand, the whole was vastly and qualitative superior to the sum of its parts. How so, I have no idea. But I have every belief that even a cursory sampling of the two Naharis will establish the difference between them. Beyond this, I cannot say more.


Anupam said...

bhaiya pehali line mein likh diya karo ki kaunse desh aur kaunsi jagah ki baat kar rahe ho .. it gets confusing when ur staying in sgp and then jumping to another altogether without any warning .. while reading this article, pehale mujhe laga ki u were talking about biryani in singapore .. : ) ..

Abhik Majumdar said...

The post is part of an ongoing series on Nizamuddin. Also,I had provided in the second para a link to a preceding post, of which this writeup is a continuation of sorts.

But yes, your point well taken. I could and should make things more clear. Think I'll add a line to the beginning of each post stating it's part of this ongoing series.

And thanks for the comment. Much appreciated!