Hyderabad Diaries: Hyderabadi Haleem

Continued from Part 4

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The holy month of Ramzan is something that Hyderabadis await eagerly every year. While Ramzan is observed as the month of fasting by the followers of Islam, Hyderabadis look forward to it as that part of the year when the hugely popular Hyderabadi Haleem would be available to feast on.

Haleem is a traditional dish made of meat, wheat, ghee, and spices, and cooked in a laborious and time-consuming process. Rich in calories (as the ingredients would suggest), the recipe was originally prepared keeping in mind followers who fast during daytime in Ramzan. It would be served in the evenings, after the fast was broken for the day.

Today however, Hyderabadi Haleem is more than just a food item. It is an industry.

Irani Cafés all over the city construct their own ‘Bhattis’ (a typical brick oven built around a copper vessel) in front of their café, in which the Haleem would be prepared. One could see them being occupied in the process of Haleem preparation the whole day and it would finally be ready to be served by evening. The end product would be a paste like dish that is scooped out of the vessel in the oven and served with fried onions, lemon and garnishing, in distinctive ceramic bowls (which are now being replaced by plastic ones).

Growth in the popularity of Hyderabadi Haleem would invariably be discussed in two periods – pre-Pista House days and post-Pista House days. Pista House converted Haleem from being a simple food item to a brand. So much so that today Hyderabadi Haleem even has a GI tag. Pista House revolutionized the Haleem field by offering ‘Haleem by Post’ and ‘Vegetable Haleem’. They revised the rules and transformed the arena. Haleem, which was till then a dish to be enjoyed at the nearby Irani cafes, suddenly shot to the center stage. Today you have newspaper adverts from leading joints, Take-away points, best Haleem contests, scratch cards, Haleem-Thums Up combos, family packs of Haleem and much more. In some sense, they did to Haleem what Reliance did to mobile phones.

Today, apart from the local and regular joints where they have been enjoying their Haleem for years, Hyderabadis also make it a point to taste as much of Haleems served by Pista House, Paradise, Garden, Café Bahar, Sarvi, City Light, Bawarchi, and many more joints, as possible. Keeping in mind that they have only a month to try them all.

However, not everyone would like the taste of Haleem very much the first time. It will not blow you away the first time you have it. Rather, it slowly seeps into your system. And the more you have, the more you begin to enjoy it. And then, after the season ends, you savor it in your memories, and look forward to tasting it again after 12 months.

If you happen to be in Hyderabad during the month of Ramzan, don’t miss the opportunity to taste Hyderabadi Haleem. It is one dish that you must absolutely taste.

To be continued …..

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