Nihari: Most dishes get their names from their core ingredient, but this quintessential Delhi breakfast derives its name from the way it is meant to be consumed — ‘nihar-mooh’, on an empty stomach. Traditionally made with large cuts of buff, mostly from the lower part of the animal’s leg, the dish dates back to the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. The meat is slow cooked overnight and served early the next morning in Old Delhi. Kallu Nihari serves meaty cuts in a complex gravy and has found loyalists through generations.
Following closely is Haji Shabrati Nihariwale, which serves a runny nihari out of a compact corner. At the more popular Karim’s and its neighbour Al Jawahar, nihari is made with lamb’s meat. While Al Jawahar conjures up a qorma-resembling nihari, Karim’s version is more authentic. It is also one of the latter’s signature dishes.
Bedmi Poori: Fluffy pooris paired with a savoury curry are most commonly eaten as breakfast but are also prepared on special occasions, especially in Kayastha homes, and even served as prasad. Traditionally made without onion and garlic, bedmi poori is calorie packed and makes for a filling breakfast. Shyam Sweets and Shiv Misthan Bhandar in Old Delhi and Kaleva (pictured) are popular purveyors of this eternal favourite.
A Full Breakfast: Known also as The Full Monty and A Fry-up, The Full Breakfast takes rather seriously the idea that the first meal must be the best meal of the day. Originally from England and Ireland, it has become one of the most popular breakfast options in the world. Just the bare essentials include sausages or bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, fried bread (often toasted in the city), eggs (fried or scrambled) and can be paired with tea, coffee or juice. In its more elaborate avatar, it makes space for potatoes (hash, mashed or fried) and veggies, most commonly peppers and mushrooms. While Social’s Sid’s Very Posh Breakfast teams two eggs (done your way) with grilled tomatoes, baked beans, a hash brown, bacon and sausages with toast, Smoke House Deli offers multi-grain or gluten free bread, baked tomatoes and a hash brown that can be paired with eggs they do in a dozen ways. Blue Door Cafe’s Ultimate Omelette interpretation whips the core ingredients along with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and ham into a three-egg omelette.
South Indian Breakfast: Those leaning towards lighter breakfast options can avail offerings from the south of the country. The time-honoured Sagar Ratna, Naivedyam and the breakfast thali at Andhra Bhavan offer regular delights such as dosa, vada, idli and uttapam, with piping hot sambar and dollops of freshly-ground coconut chutney, while Carnatic Cafe also offers the aromatic bisi bele bath, a popular morning dish from Karnataka. All this can be downed with a seething tumbler of filter coffee.
Pancakes: An ancient food, archaeological evidence has traced flapjacks, or a version of them, to prehistoric societies. The ancient Greeks and Roman sweetened them with drizzles of honey; the Elizabethans ate them with rosewater, sherry and apples. At the beginning of Lent, they were devoured on Shrove Tuesday. Now made with eggs, flour, milk and butter, and paired with fruits, syrups and margarine, the pancake changes form from place to place.
Britain’s unleavened, crepe-like version contrasts against North America’s, which uses baking powder as a leavening agent. In Delhi, their presence has only surged in the last decade. Indigo Deli keeps them classic and pairs them with a fruit compote, maple syrup and home-made preserves. Music and Mountains, on the other hand, infuses them with a ruby hue to serve instagrammable red velvet pancakes with honeycomb and a chocolate crumble. Smoke House Deli uses buttermilk that gives the pancake a hint of tartness and offers blueberries, chocolate chips and hazelnuts