The Hyderabad haleem is now a Rs100-crore brand name
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. 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 6,000 haleem makers in the unorganized sector in Hyderabad, which had a huge market of Rs 100 crore, which includes export share of 24 per cent.