Time: A month in a year
Biryani: Who is it?
Haleem: I am Haleem.
Biryani: Haleem, who?
Haleem: Who is it?
Biryani: I am Biryani.
Haleem: Biryani, who?
This pretty much sums up the food scene in Hyderabad during Ramadan. Yet, folks like me who are new to the culinary scene in Hyderabad and many who only learn about the cuisine of this culinary capital of Telangana through hearsay know only about Biryani as the forerunner of Hyderabadi cuisine.
With the onset of Ramadan, all I could see was advertisements about Haleem, bloggers doing Haleem walks and all the restaurants and eateries talking about Haleem which set the mood for this post. So you know I need the inspiration to write.
Of course, with so many varieties making noise one thing was clear that Ramadan meant
that people could savor Haleem in many avatars. But what actually is Haleem and why is it associated with Ramadan so closely got me looking for answers which took me to Senior Sous Chef, Aamer Jamal from ITC Kakatiya.
1. Hyderabadi cuisine is mainly known for Biryani (at least to people who do not know the cuisine of the region well) but during the month of Ramzan, it seems Biryani is nowhere to be seen and it’s Haleem that is ruling. Why is that so? What makes Haleem so special during the month of Ramzan?
The month of Ramadan is all about cleansing your soul through fasting and Haleem provides the nourishment and strength to the body during fasts while Biryani, as the connoisseurs would agree, is a symbol of royalty and magnanimity. Simply put, Haleem addresses the quintessential need providing you with instant energy and much-needed calories and Biryani precedes luxury.
2. What is Haleem? Could you tell us a bit about the history of this dish?
Haleem is a stew composed of meat, lentils and pounded wheat which is slow cooked for about 7-8 hours/overnight to a paste like consistency.
Speaking about its history one can find an obscure reference about it in The Bible where Jacob serves his brother Easu, a bowl full of Red Lentil Stew. The color red may be surmised as a metaphor that was used to describe the meat, game or livestock used in the making of the stew. Whatever the reason for its genesis, it is safe to assume, for now, the answers to this still lie waiting.
3. What is Haleem eaten with?
Haleem is a complete meal and its foundation lies in the amalgamation of proteins through meat, carbohydrates through wheat and barley and fat through the clarified fat or ghee. Haleem stands a Prince Regent, a Sultan if you may, one who shares not its glory, its standing.
(I am impressed)
4. Which are the other dishes that are a part of Ramzan celebrations?
Haleem, may have acquired the pinnacle during Ramadan but there are few other though remote may their genealogy be to the occasion like Dahi Bade (dumplings of white urad dal or chickpea flour) seeped in savoury yoghurt base garnished with fried red chillies that render an additional dimension to those who thrive after the spicy edge it has to offer. Sukhi Dal (al dente cooked chickpeas) tossed with fresh coriander and seasoned with lime and pepper. There is also Gosht/Paya/ Zubaan ki Nihari and the Kulcha that one may come across in the bustling bylanes of the city that doesn’t sleep through the night during these days.
5. What makes a complete meal during Ramadan? And which are the desserts that are associated with Ramadan?
Ramzan as the doctrine of Islam would have it is a period of penitence, a time to reflect upon one’s actions, a time to cast away all ties with the mortal world and a time to fast. The fast begins before dawn with Suhur or Sahar – the first meal before the day-long trial of one’s will and subjugation. The family draws around the dastarkhwaan and usually starts the fast by having a bowl of steaming hot nihari or the sweet variant of Haleem- Jareesh. The fast is drawn to completion with Iftar. Tradition may have it that one breaks the fast with three pieces of Khajur (dates), a pinch of salt and nimbu paani. One can find every household welcoming the other rosadar with a bowl of Sheer Khorma (a sweet dish) on the day of Id-ul-Fitr.