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Haleem goes places

In Hyderabad, Ramzan, the month of fasting for Muslims, instantly reminds one of the deliciously nutritious non-vegetarian dish called haleem.

Literally meaning patience, haleem actually requires a lot of time and loads of patience for its preparation. Introduced to Hyderabad through its centuries’ old links with Iran and West Asian countries, it is made of mutton, wheat, pulses, curds, onions, spices, lemon juice and ghee.

The city’s special Ramzan delicacy, Haleem, has gained such popularity abroad that now local chefs are being courted by hoteliers in Saudi Arabia to fly to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and prepare it for Umrah pilgrims there. According to sources, the cooks have gone on Umrah visas and after performing the pilgrimage, have joined the restaurants there.

And, if Hyderabad and haleem have become synonymous during the past few years, at least part of that credit should go to the Shahalibanda-located Pista House owner Majeed, who literally left no stone unturned to popularise the dish

It was M.A. Majeed, who involved the postal department in disbursing Pista House haleem to far off places around the twin cities. Again, it was Majeed who, for the first time, came up with the concept of vegetarian haleem haleem, a couple of years ago.

Encouraged by haleem’s popularity city hotels like Badaam, Shahi, Shadaab and Pista House have tied up with courier companies to sell haleem packets in the Middle East. Some of them have also sent their own cooks to the holy cities.  “About a dozen local cooks are stationed in Mecca, Medina and Jeddha,” he said. Pista House  has popularised the Hyderabadi haleem all over the country through its postal and courier networks.

“That Hyderabadi haleem is very popular among Arabs. Even pilgrims from Indonesia and Malaysia are seen queuing up to get a taste of the dish,” says Muhammad Umar Adil of Shadaab Hotel. “Barring mutton and wheat, which are procured locally, all other spices are imported from Hyderabad,” Mr Majeed pointed out.

On the occasion of the beginning of Ramzan in Saudi Arabia, scores of haleem packets have been dispatched to Mecca and Medina. The Hyderabadi haleem was such a hit on the first two days and city hotels are flooded with more orders now. This is the first time that Hyderabadi haleem is being sold outside the country. During the last few years, Hyderabadi haleem has been in high demand among VVIPS and film stars in Mumbai.

Haleem is prepared in the morning and it is packed in special sachets to keep it hot. It is then delivered well before Iftar in Jeddah, Mecca and Medina. Haleem traces its origins back to the Arab world. The recipe was taken to Iran and from there it came to Hyderabad.

However, today haleem is unique to Hyderabad although its variant, harees, is still made in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other Muslim countries. A small plate of haleem is sold for 5 Saudi Riyals while a big plate costs 10 Riyals. A family pack of haleem is sold for 25 Riyals.

Orders placed before 3 pm on a particular day would be delivered before 10.30 pm the same day, Majeed said, and added that the freight rate for one kilogram of haleem costing Rs 135 would be Rs 200 (i.e., Rs 335/- per kg of haleem including freight charges)


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