Summer is in full swing and so is the Haleem madness. As the month of holy Ramzan or Ramadan has settled in, people in Kolkata suddenly feel a strange craving for this dish. During this one month, rarely any other dish gets such love, trust me. I must confess that I am not really a Haleem lover. But still, there are a few places, from where I really like the dish. and this is a brief compilation of the same.
I personally feel that Haleem can be better enjoyed during the winter time. But frankly, very few restaurants prepare this beauty throughout the year.
First things first. there is a small confusion between Haleem and Daleem. Few people say that haleem made with dal is Daleem and naturally, there are people who oppose that. For them, as Haleem is one of the names of god, it shouldn’t be used as the name of a food dish. But who cares whether it’s Daleem of haleem- as long as it’s tasty …
A brief origin of Haleem
Coming to Haleem, I can’t stop myself from giving Gyan. Haleem originated during the roughly 10th century in Arabic countries and probably was named Harees. We get its reference in Kitab Al-Tabikh (Book of Recipes), the world’s oldest surviving Arabic cookbook. The same dish was introduced in India by the Arabic soldiers in Hyderabad Nizam’s army during the rule of seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan and hence made famous.
I’ve tasted Harees (or Harisa as they call) in Srinagar, Kashmir. And I can safely say, it’s a much-refined version of haleem. And while Harisa is served only during winter, haleem is served only during the hot and sultry Ramzan month in Kolkata. One reason may be that people get the day’s required nutrition from the heavy haleem. At least I couldn’t find any other reason. But whatever may be the case, taste-wise Haleem is pretty bland and a sprinkling of chopped coriander-mint and lemon wedges are needed to balance it.
So, places for Haleem in Kolkata now …
Surfire at Rajani Sen Road
The first place (and quite a newbie) where I’ve really liked Haleem, is this humble, quaint joint in South Kolkata. This coastal food joint is run by the Ishani Priyadarshini. And she takes care of personally supervising the kitchen and operations. Good news, they make the haleem throughout the year. Bad news, mostly on weekends and on a prior order. As I’ve said, in most of the places in Kolkata, I’ve found Haleem as a superior version of Dal gosht (dal cooked with meat) and the texture is mostly watery. But here it’s a different story.
Haleem at Surfire is thick- in fact of a gooey consistency. Ishani says quite proudly, “We make it as the same consistency as Hyderabadi Haleem”. Meat is pasted and cooked using the slow-cooking technique. It’s priced at a slightly higher level- 350/- a portion. But considering the quality, price of the haleem seemed okay to me.
This place is not really known for Haleem, I know. Rather the Dal Makhni and kebabs are what this place is famous for. In fact, they even manage a food ATM, where anybody can give their excess food and it’s distributed to the needy people by the management. This year, Asif da sent an Iftar parcel to my place and I was fairly surprised. The haleem was good, but what made it different, is that there were actual meat chunks (softened by the good 8-hour slow cooking) in the dish. With a little sprinkling of coriander-mint leaves and a dash of lime (personally I don’t like Bereshta or fried onions), this dish is simply good to go on its own.
Veg Haleem at Lalit Great Eastern
For someone seeking for the taste of Haleem at a fine dining environment, Lalit Great Eastern is a very good option. during this time of the year, they launch their Iftar spread at Al Fresco, the 24-hour coffee shop. And from Friday- Sunday, their special Haleem is prepared. The Haleem is definitely good as part of the buffet menu of a premium property, but that’s not why I’m putting it here.
During Ramzan, Lalit Great Eastern prepares a superb veg haleem. Yes, don’t roll your eyeballs. It’s made with soya-keema and has got the ability to be loved by a carnivore like me. And why not ? Haleem is supposed to be nutritious and with soya-keema, this serves the purpose. Unlike Harisa, it’s not bland, no- but quite well balanced. Personally, I’ll still need the lemon and coriander-mint … But what the heck ? And trust me, it’s tastier than many of its meat counterparts elsewhere.
My suggestion: please don’t skip this dish while you visit the place.
So, if you tend to have Haleem in Kolkata at Lalit Great Eastern, apart from the mutton variant, do try their veg haleem.
Zakaria Street chapter
During Ramzan, the entire Zakaria street magically transforms itself into one giant food street. Shops get a new make-over and more than the food (which they serve throughout the year), its a community feeling there. For haleem, the legendary Sufia is there and they serve haleem in 3 varieties- beef, mutton, and magaz (yes, the brain).
Haleem here is more of a dal-like consistency and not the gooey stuff. It’s available for just 2 hours every day, from the time the Ramzan fast breaks out. And for the sheer variety, this place should be visited once. However, apart from Sufia, there are numerous make-shift stalls (or restaurants selling haleem during this period) selling Haleem and they’re pretty decent mostly. Apart from the runny consistency, if someone tastes them as a variant of Dal-gosht, they all are pretty good.
Last year, we’ve done an episode featuring this area, on our Youtube Channel Foodka and you can check the episode here.
Personally, I’m not a Haleem lover. I understand that after the day-long fast, it provides the nutritional value as the one-dish meal and appreciate that. But, the taste is extremely subjective to one’s own. The stuff that we get usually in Kolkata, is more like a runny mishmash of meat, dal and other ingredients. whereas, the one from Surfire or Hyderabad is more of the gooey lump of superfine mashed meat. And maybe just maybe, that works for me.
Shiraz- for the sheer variety
Last, but not the least, Shiraz Golden Restaurant Mullikbazaar prepares an array of different varieties of Haleem. Wherein, their Shahi Haleem is thick and just like the stuff, we’re used to, there are other varieties to be tasted. It’s no secret that I’m biased towards Shiraz, but this definitely is recommended. But please remember, for breaking the fast during Ramzan, Shiraz remains closed from 6-645 PM. And the haleem gets ready by 4 and tend to get over by 6-630. Hence, please reach on time to avoid disappointment.
So, do let me know about your favorite haleem place in Kolkata in the comment section and let’s explore together.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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