Yesterday, I finally tasted the famous Haleem of Hyderabad.
During the holy month of Ramadan, most observant Muslims get up before sunrise to eat and pray, and then fast until the sun sets.
All over the city of Hyderabad, food stalls have sprung up to offer the famous Haleem, traditionally used to break the fast.
Prepared with wheat, lentils, lamb, spices and pure ghee (clarified butter), it is cooked for at least 10 hours in a bhatti (an oven made of mud), until it gets its paste-like consistency.
Another example of modernity cohabiting with tradition in India, it is, this year, possible to order haleem on the Internet or over the phone. You pay with a credit card, and it will be delivered all over India in less than 48 hours.
I went to the old city thinking we were going to sit somewhere, order a portion of haleem, and proceed to eat. What can I say ? I was born and brought up in Europe, where one sits at the table to eat, and then lingers on as long as possible in order to digest and enjoy coffee and good conversation, and it would seem that the number of years spent abroad cannot have any influence on that particular habit. I’m forever surprised when I see people eat and go.
Anyway, we arrived in front of Pista House, THE best Haleem outlet, according to my friend, Piush, and it didn’t take me long to realize that we were going to eat the famous dish standing in the middle of the crowd. We made our way through the dozens of motorcycles parked in front of Pista House, and there, as I looked around with big eyes, and started taking pictures – I know, the perfect tourist: must be a vocation -my friend swiftly caught the attention of one of the young men delivering haleem to the crowd, and before I noticed anything, the guy was back with two bowls.
Here is our speedy waiter…
And here is my haleem…
So? Haleem tastes good. Haleem is also as rich as anyone can imagine. I was advised to squeeze lemon on the pasty mixture, and I did, then wiped my hand on the paper napkin, trying to get rid of the shreds of paper that stuck to my fingers, and I ate with the little plastic spoon provided. I really liked it, but I could never have finished the whole bowl.
And here is Piush, balancing bowl and paper napkins.
There weren’t many women, almost none, actually. They were probably home, cooking dinner. Because haleem is like an appetizer, something to break the fast. Later, everyone has a big meal at home.
Piush proceeded to order more haleem for all her friends in Delhi and Bengalore, so they could partake in the festive mood, and we left. I would have liked to stay longer, but the kids were waiting at home, my husband was on his way back from the airport, and my friend also has a child to take care of. But at least, I got to experience another little slice of real Hyderabady life. Standing.