Hyderabad: The days when the walled city used to wake up to the aroma of steaming hot ‘nihari paya’ appear so far away in the past now.
‘Healthy’ menus, tiffin centre favourites like ‘dosa’ and ‘idli’ and other dishes from menus handed over by fitness gurus have replaced this traditional breakfast delicacy, which was once the king of not just breakfast menus, but was also available for lunch and supper.
Now, the once omnipresent ‘nihari paya’ – a soup prepared using lamb shanks and spices — is prepared only at a few hotels across the city.
“Except at established restaurants, the soup is not prepared anywhere in the city,” says Mohd Irfan, a hotelier from Tolichowki.
Not long ago a restaurant selling ‘nihari paya’ in the older parts of the city could be figured from a distance, thanks to the practice of keeping a big cauldron on the pavement in front of the restaurant and a pile of bread arranged neatly on an iron table beside it. The scene was common across the old city. Be it Yakutpura, Misrigunj, Shah Ali Banda, Talabkatta, Jahanuma, Karwan or Asifnagar.
“The soup was kept in a big cauldron outside the hotels as the utensil required a lot of space. The soup was mostly served as a staple dish for many families during breakfast. Hundreds of parcels were sold every morning,” said Mirza Asad Baig, owner of Five Star restaurant at Jahanuma.
Till a decade ago, Baig got the soup prepared and sold at his restaurant. “I had to stop it because there was little demand for it. Especially after the advent of South Indian items like idli and dosa,” he says.
‘Nihari’ is a soup prepared with lamb shanks which are heated till they become soft and mixed with various spices, adding ghee or edible oil.
“The master chef prepares the soup after a six-hour laborious job, usually beginning late at night. The next morning, the soup is ready for sale to the public,” explains Jani Miya, who used to prepare the soup at his roadside hotel at Bahadurpura. It is nearly five years since he stopped the soup business and has now set up a juice centre.
“Apparently due to health concerns, people are avoiding oily foods. With videos of cheap oil being used at hotels flooding WhatsApp and other social media platforms, people are more careful these days,” said Mohammed Yousuf, proprietor of Imran Hotel at Chandrayangutta. His restaurant served nihari paaya for two decades but doesn’t do so any more.
Dr Rafi Ahmed, former superintendent of Nizamia Tibbi Government Hospital, says many patients suffer from renal diseases in the older parts of the city owing to their food habits.
“People are now very cautious and are avoiding oily and spicy foods. They are switching over to refined edible oils too and are very careful about where they eat,” he said.