Tryst With Nehari

Team Chronicle

Let’s begin with a quiz question. Which dish is cooked for 18 hours but gets consumed within one and half hours? If you are smart enough to do some quick deductions from the title and answer ‘nehari’ you will only get half a mark; this is because the correct answer is nehari at Sufia.

Sufia on 2, Zakaria Street opposite Nakhoda mosque is not just an eatery; eating nehari at Sufia is an experience, a lifetime one, particularly for a foodie and a Calcuttan as well. If you haven’t tasted nehari at Sufia you certainly have missed out on something in your existence as a denizen of Calcutta.

Picture this. You get out of bed when it is still dark. Leaving behind the warmth and comfort of your bed in chilly wintry mornings is difficult but then a voice at the back of your mind keeps goading you. Not even the neighbourhood dogs stir when you leave your home to set out for Zakaria Street. You pray fervently all the way that all your efforts are not in vain it as the first ray of the morning sun touches this part of the globe.

You are taken aback as you reach Sufia. There are scores of early birds eager to a catch of worm, oops a bowl of piping hot nehari. You spy upon a board in front of the counter which is illuminating. “Nehari k bartan badal jai ya kho jai, hotel zemedar nehi” it reads. The patrons of nehari apparently leave their utensils behind on the evening before, so that they don’t have to turn back disappointed. And we were plainly lucky. At dot 5.30 AM we were the last one to be served before they called it a day.

As you must have guessed by now nehari is a slow-cooked beef stew, a breakfast dish served just after fajr (morning) namaz and it can be filling enough to make you go without food till dusk. November to February – Sufia serves nehari only for these four months. There are scores of eateries, well-known restaurants who also serve nehari but that of Sufia is legendary. Though the ambience is not much to talk about its food will give swanky outlets a run for their money. But before going into all let’s find out what is nehari?


Nehari comes from the Urdu word ‘nihar’ which originated from the Arabic ‘nahaar’, meaning morning.  Like many other dishes, the origin of this wonderful aromatic dish is shrouded in theories as history is ambiguous on its origin. According to some, it originated in the Mughal courts. The Mughal emperors, keen on expanding their empire had a large army to fulfil their territorial ambitions. In those days battles were usually fought during daytime. Providing regular meals to such a huge army was indeed a problem.  It must have been some brilliant war strategist who came up with idea of preparing nehari for the army recruits. It is a dish prepared with trotters and cooked long over low flame. It made the meat tender but most importantly preserved the natural gelatin. This resulted in an extremely delicious, nutritious but at the same time a very heavy dish. It took several hours to get digested. It suited the soldiers as they never felt hungry for several hours despite the ordeals at the battlefields. Today, nehari is a very popular breakfast item among the populace during winter. This sumptuous dish eaten with plain tandoori roti is enough to sustain one till dusk.

Nehari At Sufia

The term ‘melt in your mouth’ is often used to describe well cooked meat. But the nehari beef at Sufia is the perfect example of meat that actually melts in your mouth. “We use the calf portion of meat as it is tender than others,” said Tarik Ali, manager of Sufia.

The paya along with salt and turmeric begins to stew every day at 10 AM and continues till 6 PM. The meat is slow cooked for nearly 4 hours, right from 4 PM in the afternoon till 7.30 PM, resulting in soft tender meat and that is, no doubt the secret behind their delicious Nehari. Later on, the broth after being strained out and the meat along with other spices are put on a dum from 9 PM to 3 AM, next day. “Nehari involves slow cooking of meat with the broth in large vessels along with spices, sealed with dough,” added Ali.

Add some chopped coriander and the juice of the lemon to the rich yet smooth broth, poured over two pieces of meat, and enjoy its heavenly taste, along with soft, fluffy tandoori rotis and believe me it will force you to return to Sufia again and again.

“Right proportion of the ingredients is a must. There are a total of 121 ground herbs and spices including 70 types of ayurvedic ones while the rest are common ones like saffron, ghee, kewra, atar, pepper, dhaniya powder, jeera, jaifal, jaitri that make nehari a delicacy. If the quantity of kewra is more, the smell will be overpowering and that will subsequently lead to reduced appetite. We make around 40 – 50 kg of nehari every day and on holidays the quantity doubles. There is a kg of grounded spices per 40 – 50 kg of nehari,” informed Ali. What is the secret of their nehari? Ali remains tight lipped. On further prodding, he revealed that only his sister knows the exact proportions.

“I have been coming to Sufia since 30 years. Even undergoing Bypass surgery has not been a deterrent for me to have nehari at Sufia,” grinned Abdul Wahab, a local resident. Age too seemed a distant factor when in love with nehari. Young and old both stood in queue for their favourite nehari. “We come here often after we finish our morning prayers. It energies and keeps the body warm throughout the day,” smiled Azhar, the 24 year-old-foodie.

Do you know the best thing about this dish? Although we are not used to such rich food in our day to day diet, there were no aftereffects – no acidity or indigestion. So, let’s dig in.



Paye (Goat trotters) – 4 pieces

Cloves- 5 pieces

Cardamoms- 5 pieces

Cumin seeds- I teaspoon

Pepper corns- 6 pieces

Bay leaves- 2 pieces

Cinnamon- 1 stick

Rose petals- 12 petals

Salt- as desired


Take a small piece of muslin cloth and make a potli (bundle) with all the above ingredients.

For the gravy: (ingredients)

Mustard oil: 2 tablespoon

Onions: 4 medium size (for frying)

Onions: 2 medium size (for grinding)

Ginger: 1 piece

Garlic: 8 cloves

Turmeric powder: 2 teaspoon

Coriander powder: 2 teaspoon

Garam masala powder: 2 teaspoon

For Garnishing

Coriander leaves: a few leaves

Green chilies: as desired

Kewra water: 2 tablespoon

Lemon wedges


Wash the trotters and keep them aside. Slice the onions finely and fry them till golden brown. Grind the other two onions to a fine paste. Grind the ginger and the garlic separately. Take a pressure cooker or a deep pan and put oil in it. Add the bay leaves and the trotters to it. Now add the ginger paste, garlic paste, onion paste, turmeric powder, coriander powder and salt. Fry for a few minutes. Then put the potli with 4 cups of water. Cook the trotters till tender (approximately 45 minutes). Now add the fried onions and garam masala powder. Finally add the kewra water. Garnish with coriander leaves, chopped green chilies and lemon wedges. Serve hot with plain tandoori roti or nan.