A Ramadan sans haleem in Hyderabad

This Ramadan, Hyderabad will miss 'haleem', the season's flavour,  as hotels have decided not to make or sell the lip-smacking delicacy in view of the ongoing lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus

Mohammed Shafeeq Apr 22, 2020

This Ramadan, Hyderabad will miss 'haleem', the season's flavour,  as hotels have decided not to make or sell the lip-smacking delicacy in view of the ongoing lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus. With just a couple of days to go for the beginning of the holy month and the lockdown in force at least till May 7, hotels and haleem makers have decided not to make the famous dish, which has been synonymous with Ramadan for several decades.

Some haleem makers were toying with the idea of door delivery of the delicacy but the ban imposed by the Telangana government on food delivery platforms early this week compelled them to drop the idea.

"We don't want to take a chance, especially after an incident in Delhi where a delivery boy was allegedly tested positive," Haleem Makers' Association president Mohammed Abdul Majeed told IANS.

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao on Sunday ordered the shutdown of Swiggy and Zomato. He said the decision was taken in view of the reports that a pizza delivery boy who tested positive in Delhi infected 67 persons in Delhi.

Since the lockdown began, Swiggy and Zomato were exempted from restrictions and they were delivering food from some restaurants.

Haleem makers were of the view that even if the lockdown is lifted from May 8, some restrictions like social distancing will remain in force. The ban on congregational prayers is also likely to continue for a longer period.

Religious scholars have already appealed to Muslims not to come to mosques for prayers and also do 'iftar' (breaking of fast) and 'sehr' (pre-dawn meals to begin the fast) at home.

"We felt that by selling haleem, we can't ensure social distance. The situation is already bad. We didn't want to add to the problems," said Abdul Majeed, whose Pista House claims to be the largest Haleem maker in the world.

He agreed with the Chief Minister that they can make the money again but can never get back the lives lost.

According to him, there are 6,000 haleem makers in Hyderabad and other cities. Most of them depend on the business during Ramadan. Pista House's haleem business was providing direct and indirect employment to 15,000 during Ramadan every year.

"For the last 10 years we were encouraging youth to do the business. Four to five students used to come together and take an outlet to sell Haleem every evening. This was helping them to meet their educational expenses," said Majeed, Managing Director of Pista House.

The food joint, which secured Geographical Indication (GI) status for Hyderabadi Haleem in 2010, has been selling the dish at over 200 outlets.

Besides tying up with Swiggy for door delivery in Hyderabad, Pista House also used to join hands with Gati courier for delivery in other metro cities.

Haleem, a stew of meat, lentils and wheat mixed with spices, is preferred for breaking the fast due to its energizing nature, high nutritional value and soothing porridge-like texture. Originally an Arabic dish, it is said to have come here during the Mughal period via Iran and Afghanistan.

The syrupy dish was Indianised with the addition of Indian spices, dry fruits, ghee and the unique style of cooking.

'Bhattis' or brick and mud ovens used to come up in front of almost every hotel and road-side eatery at least a week before the beginning of Ramadan.

The dish gained huge popularity over the last two decades thanks to Pista House, the brand which has gone global.

At every eatery, one could spot chefs with their assistants mixing the ingredients and pounding the meat in the vessels with large wooden poles. The pounding ensures that the mixture turns into fine paste. It is served after being garnished with special spicy 'shorba' (meat broth), carmelized onions, coriander and slices of lemon.

Such will be the popularity of haleem during the holy month that even the world-famous biryani, the signature dish of Hyderabad, takes a backseat.

Popular joints like Pista House, Shah Ghouse'and Sarvi, whose haleem was the favorite of all, used brisk business during the season with techies, businessmen, families and even tourists relishing the piping hot delicacy at numerous outlets across twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

This time haleem will be confined to home kitchens. However, many feel that due to non-availability of meat at many places or high prices, even making the dish at homes will be a challenge this year (IANS)

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