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It's only haleem now

Haleem is so popular during Ramzan that there are people who eat this dish the whole month. Restaurants in the Old City have been serving it for years. The burgeoning clientele today has necessitated the setting up of makeshift kiosks to serve the delicacy.


SIZZLING FURNACE: Business is brisk at Anmol International. — Photos: Mohd Yousuf

THE MERE mention of haleem sends signals to the sensory organs. While the mind effortlessly conjures up images of huge cauldrons placed on low simmer on crude brick kilns, the aroma that emanates tantalises the nose. Close your eyes and you can sight people queuing beside the sizzling furnace and either relishing the thick brown paste or holding out their bowls for an extra ladle.

"It's time I live the virtual reality for myself," you say, as you hungrily savour each spoonful, eager for the next helping of the peppery meaty fare. And as you demand more of it, serious men stirring the cauldron, look approvingly at you.

Attribute it to the tempting taste or an intense desire to feel Hyderabadi, haleem has never enjoyed this quantum of clientele, until now. Transcending the frontiers of religious faith after having broken the glass-ceiling environs of the old city, the dish has evolved as a `must-have' delicacy during the month of Ramzan. To an extent that even kiosks serving typical Andhra cuisine have geared up for the season and are serving haleem, made on makeshift brick kilns.

"The authentic haleem makers, however, like Hotel Madina, Naayab and Shaadab, are always concentrated only in the Old City. New city and Secunderabad area used to have only a couple of places like, Garden, Paradise or Alpha Hotel, making haleem until a few years back. But the popularity and the subsequent demand of haleem has impelled many hotels and even individuals in Secunderabad area to make the dish on a commercial basis during Ramzan to earn a fast buck," says Garden Restaurant manager, Omar Sheikh Abdullah.

A couple of small-time restaurants and eateries in Secunderabad have even gone a step ahead and started haleem as a regular menu, available round the year. Rainbow Hotel in Gunfoundry is one of the most popular amongst many such joints. "There are a lot of takers for my round-the-year haleem, which is primarily made of pounded wheat and meat (either chicken or mutton) and is moderately priced at Rs. 15 a plate. Business is brisk," says the owner.

"Indeed, there is a lot of money in haleem considering the popularity of the dish. Our haleem is priced at Rs. 25 a plate with a free Coke ," says Paradise restaurant manager, Nasir Mudazzar. Paradise sells over 2,000 plates a day during the festive season, with takers, which cuts across communities and religion.

"It is, I guess, largely driven by the desire to feel Hyderabadi that people taste haleem and eventually get hooked onto to the compelling flavour, savouring it everyday during the month of Ramzan," says Indian School of Business student Sahaityadeep Ghosh. "I live on haleem during the season," he says.



MUST HAVE DELICACY: The flavour of the season.

Says Venkat Rammanna Choudary, who runs Sandhya Restaurant - a typical Andhra mess at Secunderabad, "This is the first time I have started making haleem during Ramzan, and it is selling like hotcakes. I will even be exporting haleem to Singapore and UAE and I have hired two cooks, who claim descent from the kitchens of the Nizam."

To meet the increasing demands, Pista House in Shalibanda, which is endeavouring to patent its haleem along with the `unique' recipe, has even tied up with the postal department to supply haleem at 76 post offices in the city. "This is just to facilitate our customers who find it difficult to travel to Shalibanda to enjoy the delicacy. The response is tremendous," adds Pista House proprietor M.A. Majeed.

And good response has to be there. For otherwise, there would not have been at least a dozen places serving haleem in the kilometre-long round stretch from Garden Restaurant to Paradise, the only two pioneers of haleem in Secunderabad till now. .

With more and more people falling for the taste and tang of haleem, and the subsequent mushrooming of kiosks serving the dish, it may be just a matter of time before those who have not been hit by its persuasive fragrance, intersperse their ubiquitous lentil-driven diet during Ramzan with a generous ladle of haleem.

A taste that leaves no regrets!

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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