FOOD SPOT RAHUL VERMA finds his craving for haleem augurs well for a winter of gastronomic content
There was a cold wind blowing — in some parts of the country at least — and my heart was crying out for some haleem and nihari. And it was crying out so loud that it resonated in quite a few places. Just the other day, The Yum Yum Tree — a restaurant in New Friends’ Colony with a branch in Gurgaon — sent me some nihari and haleem to taste. The restaurant runs a catering service called FoodInc and has a huge menu on offer. And now they have added these two favourite dishes of mine on the menu.
And the dishes were simply delicious. They were creamy and meaty, with just the right amounts of spices adding to the flavours. They were so good that they ended up whetting my appetite. And just when I was thinking of doing something dire (like cooking the dishes at home), I was invited to a Hyderabadi meal at The Park in New Delhi. So I had my fill of haleem (Rs.745). This dish — a delectable mash of broken wheat and pounded meat — was excellent. It came with bits of fried onions, wedges of lime, green coriander and mint leaves, chopped ginger and crushed nuts. And once I had tempered my haleem with all this, I added a modest dollop of ghee on top — and the outcome was out of this world. Then I ventured into other areas. I ate some murgh mutabbaq (Rs.625), which was almost like a bowl of lasagna with layers of chicken, egg and cheese. Then there was an excellent soup, gosht ka marag (Rs.295), which was light and peppery and had been flavoured with a juicy shank. What I liked immensely was the jhinge arvi ki qaliya (Rs.925), an aromatic stew of prawns with tomato and colocasia. I have eaten prawns with a host of things — including bottle gourd — but this was the first time that I had it with arvi, and I must say it worked very well. The arvi actually complemented the texture and flavour of the prawn, which was quite a surprise.
There was a lot more — dum ka murgh (Rs.775) — chicken steamed with poppy seeds and almonds — and safed quorma (Rs.725) — lightly cooked in cinnamon-flavoured almond infused milk. And then I ended with some badam ka halwa and an excellent khubani ka meetha — apricots served in fresh cream (both Rs.425). I generally like Hyderabad’s dubbal ka meetha (a most sinful sweet prepared with fried bread), but when I saw that it had chocolate chips on them and came with a dark chocolate sauce, I desisted. Chocolates are fine in their own place, but I am not sure they go with dubbal ka meetha. All in all, it was a most satisfying meal. The festival, at the restaurant called Fire, is on till December 16. The chef, who is from Hyderabad, has done a creditable job of sticking to the original recipes with a few enhancements, but without tampering with the taste of the dishes. But I am very happy to have ushered in the winter season with hot haleems and nihari. And if the beginning of winter has been this good, the next few weeks will only get better and better. Watch this space.