Every Iftar haunt in the city has dozens of stalls selling the Hyderabadi variant
Give it a few more Ramzan seasons and Hyderabadi Haleem will be as much part of Bangalore’s culinary culture as Hyderabad’s. Interestingly, haleem wasn’t invented in Hyderabad either and was brought to the city by Arab immigrants during the Mughal period.
The first time we foodies spotted street stalls selling Hyderabadi Haleem was probably during the 2007 or 2008 Ramzan season. Today, every Iftar haunt in the city — from Neelsandra to Shivajinagar and Johnson Market to Fraser Town — has dozens of haleem stalls.
The story of haleem is a lot like that of kebabs and biriyanis — there are hundreds of local variants of the dish. In some cultures of Central Asia, the meat (beef, mutton, chicken or camel meat) retains its identity in the form of little cubes. In others, the meat, wheat, barley, spices and dry fruits are mashed together to form a pasty stew. It’s sweet in some regions and salty in some.
Right now, Bangalore’s cooks are busy perfecting the Hyderabadi variant. A few more seasons, a few innovative chefs and we might have a new brand ‘Bangalore haleem’.
Cashing in on all this excitement is a famous restaurant chain from Hyderabad — Pista House.
The man who we ask for directions to the Pista House haleem stall in Fraser Town is outraged. “It’s 7.30 p.m.; what makes you think you can get Pista House haleem at this hour?” he asks.
But the Ramzan fast was broken only 40 minutes ago. “Boss, people line up for their mutton haleem from 5 p.m. It’s the original haleem from Hyderabad.”
The man says the stall opens during lunch time and runs out of stock a few minutes after the devout break their fast. “Boss, you think only Muslims throng the stall? Most of their customers are from other communities.”
Is that right? “You don’t believe me? Do you know they export their haleem?”
As we race to catch the dish before it runs out, we wonder how the gooey stew can possibly last an intercontinental journey.
“Of course, we have a huge export business. Google us,” says Shafiq Ahmed, the man who is running the Bangalore branch.
What else? “Well, our haleem has won 286 national and international awards,” Mr. Ahmed says. And? “The team that is cooking our haleem in Bangalore has been brought down from Hyderabad.”
So, let’s see if it tastes as good as it is made to sound. The consistency is just like what Wikipedia says Hyderabadi Haleem should be. The meat is indistinguishable from the wheat which is indistinguishable from the dry fruits. None of the ingredients dominates the dish and its all one delectable mash.
Yet, it must be said that if we are blindfolded and made to taste different brands of haleem available in Fraser town, we wouldn’t be able to point out the one made by Pista House. But that’s us. Fans, however, say it takes a trained palate to appreciate the artistry of Pista House’s signature dish. Perhaps, you should try it for the record.