Haleem is a very famous dish worldwide. It is meat stew and is preferred to be eaten in the month of Ramadan by Muslims all around the world. A type of porridge that is slow-cooked, haleem is made of almost all types of lentils, broken wheat, and meat. You can use beef or mutton or even chicken for that matter. Haleem knows how to win hearts.
The lentils and wheat is soaked overnight to achieve the best taste. Later it is boiled till it softens. The meat is cooked with spices to form a thick gravy. Later, the two are combined and cooked for at least 8 hours. It is then served with a garnishing of onions and lemon.
Haleem originated in Arab several centuries ago and was brought to Hyderabad in the Mughal era via Afghanistan and Iran. It was considered a very luxurious dish that consisted of pulses, rice, ghee, meat, and wheat. Over time, it became very famous and was included in the Hyderabadi cuisine. After becoming a part of Hyderabadi cuisine, the dish evolved and a local touch could be observed in the original dish. The first recipe of Haleem dates back to the 10th century and was called Harees.
Kitab Al Tabikh, a famous cookbook written by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq mentioned Haleem for the first time. The traditional recipe followed a procedure where wheat had to be soaked in lukewarm water overnight. Later, it was cooked in water at a very low flame along with sheep tail fat or butter and meat. The excess water was then removed and the mixture was then seasoned with numerous spices including cinnamon, sugar and ghee. Even today, Haleem is considered one of the fanciest dishes in Pakistan.
‘Harisa, a mixture of meat, spices and grains, is a dish worth stampeding for. People have been savoring this slow-cooked sludge for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Today, harisa — or its Persian and South Asian equivalent, haleem — can be found from the Mediterranean, [Pakistan and India] to Kashmir, a sizable swath of the Islamic world Ibn Battuta explored,’ – Annia Ciezadlo (History on a Plate)
Haleem Vs. Harees:
When it comes to Haleem and Harees, the difference is very minimal. In Harees, the meat to wheat ratio is 1:1 whereas in Haleem, the wheat/lentils to meat ratio is 1:3. Haleem also has a lot of spices and seasoning added to it whereas Harees is the bland version of Haleem. When it comes to consistency, Haleem is very thick whereas Harees’s consistency is semi-liquid.
Often people assume that if someone is using chicken for the preparation of the dish, it’s called harees. Originally, the dish used chicken because it was cheaper and easily available. Back then, lamb and mutton could not be afforded by everyone so it became a status symbol. But, the original dish Harees and its evolved version Haleem, both use chicken, mutton, and lamb. I have even seen people use beef for making these two dishes.
Traditional Cooking Process:
The actual cooking process takes 10-12 hours because it is cooked on a woodfire. Cooks and chefs spend hours preparing haleem. The process is very exhausting but in the end, it’s all worth it. Haleem is usually made in mud or brick ovens. Sometimes it’s prepared in “Bhattis”.
Game Changer Haleem:
Killer haleem has two perfect things: Amazing flavor and silky texture. If you get these two things right, there is no way haleem will not touch your soul. It will satisfy your food craving and will leave you wanting more. To achieve the perfect texture, you will have to keep stirring till you find the right balance between not too sticky and not too silky.
Although the entire process is tiresome, the end result makes it worthwhile. When it comes to taste, it depends on your own personal preference. If you prefer something bland, you should go for harees. But if you prefer something spicy and flavorsome, haleem is the right dish for you.
Types of Haleem:
Although the dish is made of beef or mutton, sometimes it uses chicken or lamb too. One type is made of meat, wheat, barley, and spices. This is the original variant of haleem. The other type is made of 4-6 different types of lentils. The latter is more famous and widely eaten throughout the world.
For people who are more diet conscious, chicken haleem is also available. Believe it or not but restaurants nowadays are also serving fish haleem as well as vegetable haleem. Although the thought sounds crazy, in reality, fish and vegetable haleem are equally good. But that’s not all. For people who are fond of sweets, there is a sweet haleem variant available as well. Although it is not as famous as other variants, it’s still eaten throughout the Gulf region.
An interesting fact about Haleem:
Haleem takes at least 6 hours to cook. The entire process is very long and for this reason, it’s called Haleem – meaning patient in Arabic.
Is Haleem Healthy?
Haleem is a very healthy and nutritious dish. It is suitable for those who want to burn their fats. The digestion process of haleem is very slow because protein takes a lot of time to digest.