Author – Harika Bantupalli
As a Hyderabadi, the month of Ramadan is something I always look forward to. Sure it is an auspicious and a significant time of the year for Muslims across the globe, but this holy month is a little bit more special for both residents and visitors of Hyderabad – thanks to the midnight bazaars at Charminar, lavish Iftar parties and most importantly, the iconic Haleem. Yes, the Haleem! It is what most Hyderabadis look forward to, without any kind of biases or prejudices. After all, it is one of the archetypal culinary delicacies of the city.
I still remember the first time I tasted Haleem at one of the Pista House joints – the perfectly cooked, heavily spiced stew made of pounded chicken and lentils with lots of ghee added atop! The spoonful of Haleem just melted into my mouth while its divine taste still lingered in the taste buds for a long time. Since then, as Ramadan approached each year, I waited for the Haleem joints placed in the nook and cranny of the city to open. And I believe that many others like me do so, too.
Haleem was originally a native to the Arab cuisine, but was introduced to Hyderabad by the Arab diaspora during Nizam rule. Like the authentic Hyderabadi Biryani and several other traditional recipes, Arab Haleem was also exposed to the local culinary style and was infused with a number of local spices, thus obtaining a unique taste. Unlike in many Muslim regions, Hyderabadi Haleem is prepared with a variety of lentils, meat, and spices which are pounded together and cooked on a low flame for about 12 hours. The ingredients and preparation method used here are somewhat similar to the Haleem made in Karachi, Pakistan. However, the local spices give the Hyderabadi version a peculiar taste and flavor.
An important hors d’oeuvre at Ramadan Iftar parties and Muslim weddings, Hyderabadi Haleem is often considered as an international delicacy craved by many a man. The dish is so popular with people that it managed to become the first Indian meat dish to be rewarded with a Geographical Indication status by the GI registry office of India.
It should not come to one as a surprise when the month of Ramadan is synonymized with Haleem in Hyderabad and surrounding places. The city attracts a lot of visitors who wish to savour the delicacy during this holy month. Haleem tourists, as they are fondly called, visit the famous Haleem taverns and gorge on various types of Haleem available to choose from their chalkboard-written menus. Though most of the places predominantly sell Haleem prepared with chicken, mutton and beef, other variants of Haleem are also available, like the ones made with fish, emu bird, and assorted vegetables.
Figures shows that 5 billion rupees worth Haleem was sold in Hyderabad during the Ramadan month in 2014. More than 7000 Haleem taverns were set up in the city and about 28% of the production was packed and exported to more than 50 countries across the globe. Well, that’s nothing but the sheer magic of this ambrosial delicacy.
Have you tasted the iconic Hyderabadi Haleem yet? If not, this is the perfect time. Make haste and head down to one of those delectable Haleem eateries in the city before Ramadan month ends. Of course, there are some places that stay open for a few days after the festival and a couple of roadside joints at King Koti sell traditional Haleem all year round. However, the true taste of this exquisite dish can only be experienced during the days of Holy Ramadan.
Here is a recipe of Hyderabadi Haleem if you prefer to make it at home.