After the mouth-watering Hyderabadi Biryani, haleem, a meat stew laced with best quality herbs, is poised to become popular with the dish gaining acceptance among different sections of the society. Haleem is cooked and served during the holy month of Ramzan. Haleem is made from pounded whole wheat and a choice of meat such as mutton or chicken.
Come Ramadan, the Haleem will becomes most favourite household name in Hyderabad due to its healthy, nutritious values and good food after a day long fasting. It’s a perfect energy booster.
The business in a month long Ramadhan will touch upto 3000 crore according to Haleem experts calculations. Last year business almost touched 2750 crore and this year it may reach 3000 crore.
The haleem served locally, nationally, parcelled, online shipping, app delivery and worldwide courier supply network with a record orders served the same day across the globe.
Coming to the taste – the thick paste is served fresh and hot with crispy fried onions and a sprinkle of lemon juice. It is the mainstay for the fasting (roza) Muslims during the Holy month. A couple of restaurants serve it through out the year.
It is a tradition to break the daily fast at Iftar with a plateful of haleem. In Hyderabad, haleem is also served as a starter at Muslim weddings, celebrations and other special occasions. A few restaurants and Irani hotels also serve haleem throughout the year.
Generally the preparations begin during the day and end around dusk to coincide with the evening prayers. An expert keeps a close watch on the preparation as the dish needs continuous stirring. Haleem is cooked on a low flame of firewood for 12 hours in a brick and mud klin. One or two men mix it thoroughly with large wooden sticks throughout its preparation, until it gets to a sticky-smooth consistency.
Ingredients include mutton, whole wheat, ghee, milk, lentils, ginger, garlic, turmeric, racked cumin seeds, shazeera, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, saffron, kebab cheeni and dry fruits (pistachio, cashew and almond). The paste like final product is generally topped with a ghee-based gravy, pieces of lime, chopped coriander, sliced boiled egg and fried onions as garnish.
But the chicken variant of haleem also known as Irani Harees is less popular, but is cheaper than the lamb variety.
A lot of experiments are now on to get the untapped market. Now, a vegetarian derivative of haleem, in which dry fruits and vegetables are used to substitute meat, is available at some selected eateries in Hyderabad. The famous haleem maker of Hyderabad, the “Pista House’, announced a low calorie diet haleem from this year. Meethi (sweet) and khari (salted) haleem variants are served for breakfast at Arab homes in the Barkas area of the walled city of Hyderabad.
In September last, Hyderabadi haleem was awarded the Geographical Indication status by the GI registry office in Chennai. The GI tag means that no other city can make or market the dish as Hyderabadi haleem.
Originally an Arabic dish, haleem arrived in Hyderabad during the Mughal period via Iran and Afghanistan. It remained an integral part of Hyderabad during the rule of Nizams. Over a period of time local influence brought in modifications and changes in the original recipe to suit the taste of the Deccan. This made Hyderabadi haleem distinct from other types available today.
The-mouth watering and delicious Hyderabad Haleem has become costlier by almost 100 per cent this Ramzan season. M A Majeed, President of the Hyderabad Haleem Makers Association, said that rising prices of ingredients had led to a hike in per plate (350 grams) of Haleem to Rs 80 this season.
However Pista House will not export haleem. A special kitchen and outlet has been set up in Bangalore this season. “Haleem outlets have been set up at Shamshabad, Bangalore and also Sahara airport of Mumbai.”
Dr Syed Nusrath Farees of Princess Esra Hospital said haleem contains anti-aging ingredients due to the presence of natural anti-oxidants like dry fruits. “Consumers will feel more energetic and young”, he said. Haleem is also known as a weight reduction recipe, he said.
Pista house has also introduced a 24-hour delivery service on SMS mode this year and had tied up with the Gati couriers for its home delivery package which cost ~290 per a one kg container in the city .
There are 16,000 haleem makers in the unorganized sector in Hyderabad, which had a huge market of Rs 1000 crore, which includes export share of 24 per cent.
It’s late afternoon during Ramadan and the courtyard of Pista House, a restaurant in old Hyderabad, has been taken over by 220 staff members. In a smooth assembly line, they pour haleem into bright red takeaway containers, mop their edges, put lids on and stack them into pyramids.
There are still two hours to go until the day’s fast is broken but the street outside the restaurant is already filling up with people buying haleem – and only haleem – to take home for their evening meal. “The crowd gets pretty crazy in the evenings,” says a harried clerk who is taking a break from handing out tokens to streamline customers’ orders.
Haleem – a stew of mutton, lentils and wheat that originated in Persia – has been a Hyderabad staple for decades, its flavours indigenised by the addition of Indian spices. But over the last decade, its role as part of iftar has boomed.
Pista House, which bills itself as the largest haleem seller in the world, sells up to 10 tonnes of it every day during Ramadan. “When I joined in 1997, when Pista House opened, we’d sell maybe 400kg in a month,” says Moin Khan, Pista House’s main chef. “That’s how much it has increased.”
Haleem is well-suited to break a day-long fast. It is rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates, giving the body a slow but steady infusion of nutrition. Its delicate, almost porridge-like, texture also makes it a soothing dish for the evening meal, often eaten along with fruits and nuts. If anything, it can be too filling.
“I don’t eat all day during Ramadan but even so, I can only manage to eat a single bowl of haleem,” says Mohammed Shafiq, a slightly built executive at a pharmaceutical company, as he waits at Pista House for the sun to set. “It’s too heavy.”
The popularity of Hyderabad’s haleem has spread outside the city – a trend driven, in no small measure, by Pista House’s energetic owner MA Majeed. In addition to selling haleem in more than 200 kiosks across Hyderabad, “we do daily home deliveries to four other cities in India and we ship cans of haleem to the Middle East as well,” said Mr Majeed, who is also the president of the Hyderabad Haleem Makers Association.
“We start cooking every day at 4am and we finish by 1pm,” he explained. “By 2pm the haleem is in those red boxes, by 3pm it is at the airport and by the evening, it is couriered to your doorstep.” In this manner, the courier company, Gati, ships up to 12kg of haleem a day.
Pista House’s 325g portions of haleem cost 95 rupees (Dh6.25). Its family pack, a 1.3kg tub serving four people, is 430 rupees.
For 11 months of the year, Pista House functions as a typical old-style Hyderabad restaurant, serving platefuls of biryani. During Ramadan, however, all biryani production is halted in favour of haleem.
The story is similar across most of Hyderabad. Banners advertising the house haleem can be seen strung up across the doorways of most restaurants. To cope with demand, Pista House rents additional premises nearby during Ramadan – a large, tin-roofed wedding hall, where dozens of sacks of wheat and a flour mill sit in one corner.
In the kitchen, 20 deghs – massive copper pots – perch on wood fires, bubbling with the beige-coloured stew. For half an hour, two men with extra-long mallets pound the mutton and the wheat to achieve the velvety texture of the haleem.
Mr Majeed thinks this will benefit Hyderabad’s haleem in the long run but not everybody in the city agrees. Syed Abdul Rawoof, who calls himself the “grandmaster chef” at Paradise, a restaurant at the other end of the city, calls the move pointless.
“It’s difficult to standardise this process across every nook and corner of Hyderabad,” said Mr Rawoof, who used to be a vice-president in the foods division of an Indian conglomerate called ITC. “Even on the opposite side of the road, there’s a guy sitting with a degh, making less than two per cent of the haleem we make. So there’s no point to standardising anything.”
Paradise makes between 6,000 and 10,000kg of haleem daily during Ramadan, cooking their batches for 10 to 12 hours each. Massive kitchens keep deghs simmering on the upper floors of the Paradise complex – a cluster of restaurants that sprang from a single small cafe that opened in 1953.
“It’s because of this that, when I travel to Mumbai or Kolkata, I see restaurants selling really bad Hyderabadi haleem,” he said. “In Hyderabad, haleem is a great Indian variation of a dish that came in from overseas. “We should be proud of that. It’s just so good.” #KhabarLive