Ramadan is here and so is the lip-smacking haleem, the season’s flavour which during the holy month trumps even biryani, the signature dish of Hyderabad.
Bhattis or brick-and-mud ovens in front of eateries are a common sight, be it in the centuries-old markets around historic Charminar, other parts of Hyderabad or the twin city of Secunderabad.
Chefs with their assistants are seen engaged in the laborious process of making the sumptuous dish in large vessels cemented on bhattis. The entire cooking process, spanning 10 to 12 hours, is done on firewood.
The delicacy, a stew of meat, lentils and wheat mixed with spices, is originally an Arabic dish that is said to have come here during the Mughal period via Iran and Afghanistan.
The syrupy dish was Indianised with the addition of Indian spices, dry fruits, ghee and the unique style of cooking.
The painstaking process starts early in the morning with the cooking of the meat, mixed with chillis, garlic and ginger. Wheat is added once the meat becomes tender. Later lentils, spices including cardamom, cumin, garam masala, dry fruits like cashew and almonds, oil, ghee and other ingredients based on the taste are added. The pounding ensures that the mixture turns into a fine paste.
As the Iftar time approaches, dozens of workers start packing or serving piped hot haleem garnished with special spicy shorba (meat broth), carmelized onions, coriander and slices of lemon.
Haleem comes in all variants. Mutton, beef, chicken, fish, vegetarian — you name it. From old hotels like Madina in the old city to Iranian restaurants like Sarvi, all claim to have their own unique taste.
Some hotels serve the mutton haleem by topping it with fried pieces of chicken, zaban (goat’s tongue) and egg.
After vegetarian and diet haleem for the calorie conscious, Pista House has this year come out with organic haleem. According to Managing Director M A Majeed, only organic ingredients, including the meat, are used.
This Ramadan, Pista House haleem is available at over 200 dine-in and take-away outlets across Hyderabad, and also in Bengaluru and Chennai.