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There are three aspects of life that are important if you live in Hyderabad. You should have visited the Charminar, you should love biryani and lastly you should have had multiple plates of Haleem during the Ramzan month. The city’s love for Haleem overflows during this one month. The numerous stalls in every single lane are testimony of how much Haleem is consumed during this one month alone.
There are many restaurants and cafes, which serve Haleem 365 days of the year. But the real feel and taste of Haleem can be experienced only during Ramzan. Many of the city’s dwellers eagerly wait for this month so that they can savour their favourite dish. The Hyderabadi Haleem (Not to be confused with the Harees) is of Muslim origin which was brought in by the early Parsi and Iranian migrants in the city. The Irani cafes which were set up around the city by the migrants used to serve Haleem as a breakfast dish. Haleem is a very difficult dish to prepare and takes a minimum of 5-6 hours of time. It’s also very heavy for daily consumption and hence it became popular only during the month of Ramzan for breaking the fast.
So what goes into making a Haleem? The most common ingredients are spices (Cardamom, Peppercorns, Cloves, Cumin Seeds), dry fruits (pista, almonds), lentils, wheat and meat (ideally Mutton or Beef). To get the right consistency, the wheat to meat ratio has to be optimum. The Haleem is then served with fried onions, mint, cashews and topped with a sherwa (a broth made from the mutton bones). We have also recently noticed other meat variants like the Emu and Fish Haleem being available in the city aimed to give it a ‘Healthy’ twist.
Though Haleem is found in all parts of the city, I have few favourites I visit every year. Firstly, there is Pista House in Hyderabad which has been the prime advocator of Haleem including getting the GI status for the dish for Hyderabad. Shah Ghouse doesn’t lag far behind in competition and has it’s loyal following. Both these brands promise 100% mutton mixed in pure ghee. Sarvi in Banjara Hills sticks to its roots and serves the Iranian-style of Haleem. Café Bahar, Basheerbagh is one of the oldest Irani cafes, which gives out a free coke with every plate of Haleem. There are also a variety of toppings as options at Café 555 like Haleem with Chicken 65, Zaban (tongue), boiled egg. Café Iqbal in Purani Haveli is one of those non-descript eateries serving Hyderabadi food but during Ramzan it makes one of the best Irani Haleem, which is made with Beef and real saffron.
Is the Hyderabadi love for Haleem justified? Very much. You have to be in the city to experience the charm of Haleem that Hyderabad has to offer. That meaty goodness, the dash of lime, crunch of fried onions and one spoon of it is never enough.
Photo credit: Ashis & Neidhi
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