Iftar impossible sans mouth-watering "haleem"

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Kolkata, Sep 16 (UNI) If Ramzan comes, can Haleem be far behind? Ramzan, the fasting month of Muslims, has always been famous for its lip-smacking delicacies. In fact, the holy month is incomplete without its special cuisine 'Haleem', a must-have in Iftar.

This lip-smacking soup, a gastronomic delight, whets the appetite of all the fasting people during the month-long festival. However, very few know about its origin.

Haleem traces back to the pre-historic era, avers Moulana S M Noorur Rahman Barkati, the Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque in the heart of the city.

'' According to mythology, there was a great deluge and prophet Noah's Ark was stuck near the ancient Jodi Mountain in the Arabian sea. Everything was completely destroyed except those who were on the Ark, but there was no food to eat. So Noah decided to make 'Khichra' (a mixture of wheat, pulses, rice and vegetables), '' the Shahi Imam said.

However, this thick dish was brought to India by Muslim immigrants from Persia. Later in the medieval period, the Arabs gave it a different taste and form. They added meat, preferably minced beef, to the existing soup and termed it 'Haleem' meaning 'soup of wheat grains, pulses and meat'.

Hyderabad, being the hot seat of Muslim emperors, became the origin of 'Haleem' in the country then. The traditional method of cooking started right from there and was followed by Delhi, Kolkata and Lucknow.

Thus, the traditional food further got various infusions as per the taste and choice of the people. It is now available in chicken and mutton flavours as well. Because of its crying demand in the Nizam's city, a vegetarian version of 'Haleem', wherein meat is substituted with dry fruits and vegetables, has also hit the market.

'' Kolkata is second after Hyderabad in terms of Haleem's popularity, '' a resturant owner Md Faiyaz said adding beef haleem is cheaper than mutton and chicken ones.

'' The dish, comprising mainly wheat grains, meat, lentils and various spices, is cooked seven to eight hours before it is ready to be served. Its price varies depending upon the quality of restaurants, hotels and roadside eateries and ranges from Rs 6 to Rs 200 per plate, '' he informed.

However, unlike Hyderabad, the demand for this traditional delicacy is at its peak in Kolkata during Ramzan.

'' We eagerly look forward to Ramzan so that we may have Haleem after Iftar. It's an integral part of every Muslim household and is really delicious and healthy, '' said Mirza Qayyam, whose taste buds tickle at the very thought of this meat porridge.

Asked on the reason of having Haleem after Iftar, the Shahi Imam of the mosque said, '' Being the high calorie food, Haleem helps us to restore energy, lost during the month-long dawn to dusk fasting. '' Such is the popularity of Haleem that it has wriggled out of the confines of a particular community and even non-Muslims are seen having platefuls of the Indian dish today. It sells like a hot cake in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, the UAE and other Islamic countries.

However, the cuisine has not restricted itself to a 'Ramzan special' only, but most of the restaurants and ceremonies have even added this dish to their menu cards.


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