Lahore, Pakistan - Best Beef Nihari Ever at Muhammadi Nehari, Mozang Chungi
No visit to Lahore's culinary scene would be complete without a meal at Muhammadi Nehari, the one must-eat-at spot in the city for any gourmand, IMO.
Nihari is essentially a thick, spicy beef stew cooked gently overnight, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth beef in an intensely-flavoured, oily gravy. There are several nihari options on the menu at Muhammadi Nehari - we chose the "house special" nihari with "nali" (marrow) and brain. Accompanying the nihari are roughly julienned ginger, chopped fresh coriander leaves and slivers of small local lemon, to be squeezed over the stew. It was the best-tasting dish I'd had all year, anywhere.
We ordered two types of local breads: a slightly sweetish, milk-rich Taftan, and a spongey Sheermal Naan. The Taftan was extremely addictive. Muhammadi Nehari also served very good, frothy Lassi - don't miss this.
Bahawalpur Road, Mozang Chungi
Tel: +92 4237239509
The other must-visit Lahore food spot - Bashir Dar-ul-Mahi - is right across the road from Muhammadi Nehari. It's famous among Lahoris for its fried freshwater fish. Unfortunately, I visited during the "wrong" season - Lahoris are of the opinion that you only consume fish during the months which contain an "r", so during the hot months: May, June, July, August, fish is "out".
P.S. - Unless you're very adventurous, I wouldn't really recommend the local transport. But if you want to try out Lahore's Rapid Mass Transit System (LRMTS) train, take the Green Line to Kalma Chowk station. Muhammadi Nehari is 3 minutes' walk from the station.
Pakistan's cuisine doesn't have the regional differences like that in India - so you basically have Punjabi-influenced dishes throughout the country. That said, the amount of chillis used vary - from non-spicy in the Pashtun-dominated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwala region near the Afghan border in the north (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/987458) to mildly spicy in Islamabad (where I spent most of my time in Pakistan recently), moderately-spicy in Lahore (my fave city for food in Pakistan), to sweat-inducing "very spicy" in Karachi to the south.
But 'chapli kebabs' which I had in the north is a Pashtun favourite, more common up there and also in Peshawar than elsewhere in the country. The niharis I had in Islamabad, Murree, and Abbottabad are very different in taste from the wonderful ones in Lahore. I'm told Karachi does some great niharis as well, but I didn't have any opportunity to try those there.
Vegetables hardly figure at all in Pakistani cuisine, and virtually absent from Pashtun/Northern cooking - I once asked an office colleague in Jhelum (he's British-educated, but whose grandfather is a Pashtun tribal chieftain) why Pashtun cuisine hardly has any vegetables. He replied simply, "Because we don't like eating vegetables?".
I also find Pakistani cooking somehow lacking the sweetness of Indian-style Punjabi cooking - not sure why. But I do notice that Pakistani "karahis" do *not* utilise any onions in their cooking: only copious amounts of garlic, ginger and chilli powder. I know Indian cooking uses a lot of onions, ginger and some garlic (also a wider variety of spices like cardamom). So maybe this explains the difference in flavours. When I was in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I noticed the Bengalis used *a lot* of onions for their "bhuna" curries - their rationale: onions add a sweetness to the overall dish.
Hope this helps throw some light on Pakistani cuisine vis-a-vis India.
And to answer your question: the same dishes in Lahore are usually more spicy and greasy compared to the renditions in Islamabad.