The Hyderabad Haleem Review – 2008
What’s the best thing to do when the evening’s cool, you’re heading back home and and the tummy’s rumbling? For a Hyderabadi, the answer during any other month of the year could be anything from Burgers to Masala Dosas, but in the holy month of Ramzaan (Ramadan elsewhere), it has to be Haleem.
The thick paste made of Wheat, goat meat and spices has become as much a part of the idea of Hyderabad as the Biryani and the Charminar. That, of course has taken almost a decade but rest assured, it’s here to stay. I still remember going to Hy-Line at Ramkote in 1999-2000 to taste the Haleem for the first time with my cousins. It used to cost Rs 10 back then. A lot has changed since. Here are some of my observations about the scene out there this year:
- No freebies. The good old 200 ml soft drink is nowhere to be seen.
- Price disparities galore. Never have the prices between close competitors varied so much. The cheapest being Rs 45 and the costliest being Rs 60.
- Reduced quantities. Either that, or my appetite has gone up a few notches. The servings this year have been smaller than ever before.
- Bawarchi’s back. After a disappointing absence last year, Bawarchi at the RTC X roads, is back.
- Madina’s gone. The good old restaurant seems to have gone for good. And with it, a tasty Haleem too. RIP.
- Pista House everywhere. The eatery that often gets the credit for popularising Haleem seems to have spread its wings everywhere in the city through franchises.
Indeed, the rising cost of meat has meant that the price of Haleem has gone up steadily over the years. And this year was no different. Prices went up over the previous year from Rs 5 to Rs 10. That’s a huge rise, and I must admit, I don’t find it all too justified. But like I have mentioned earlier, there are surprises in store on this front in 2008.
I was accompanied by Santhosh and my cousin Gautam on most of the sojourns, and here’s what I thought of the various Haleems this year:
Bahaar, Hyderguda: A consistent favourite over the years, it surprised me by not increasing the prices at all (Rs 45, the lowest among the big outlets). However, it disappointed on the taste front by serving an uncharacteristically bland Haleem. But, like last year, it remained open on the Ganesh Visarjan day.
Garden, Secunderabad: The best Haleem on the other side of Tank Bund did a consistent job this year as well. Very spicy and left a taste to remember.
Pista House, Charminar: Didn’t have to travel too far to get the most popular Haleem in Hyderabad. A franchise outlet at Babukhan Mall, Somajiguda served it. Not much has changed as usual, but at Rs 70 (Rs 10 going to the franchisee), it’s the costliest of them all. I was a little disappointed on the quantity front though. Blame them goat meats for it!
Hy-line, Ramkote ‘x’ Roads: No change! It’s like what it was last time. Low on quantity, has lost a bit of its taste and at Rs 60, is only advised in case the other outlets are closed.
Niagara, Chaderghat: The biggest shift in terms of taste happened here. Last year the Haleem was thick, on the lines of Pista House, but this year it was thinner, a la Bahaar and Garden.
Niagara, Hyderguda: Not much to say. The worst Haleem I’ve ever tasted. As luck would have it, I got a scrapping from the bottom of the container and it turned out to be sour! The only way to get rid of the taste was to have another one elsewhere, so I headed over to Hy-Line.
Shadaab, Charminar: First it was the parking fees of Rs 10 for a two-wheeler (murder! murder!), then the guys at the counter who served the Haleem as if we were one of those prisoners in a Hindi movie, and then the server who reminded me of Papaji ka Waiter. He took 15 mintues to take an order for a cup of chai and returned with a Haleem instead, and went on to defend himself with impunity when asked why. That experience cannot take anything away from the Haleem though, which was excellent.
Paradise, Secunderabad: A huge improvement over the previous year on the taste front. Nice and spicy it was.
Sarvi, Banjara Hills: Had their Haleem for the first time. Went there ‘coz Pista House was not available, and were not disappointed. The Haleem was well cooked and spice was just right. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Will go there again, at least once more.
Bawarchi, RTC ‘x’ Roads: This was my favourite a couple of years back, and this time around as well it did not disappoint. What’s more at Rs 50 it was certainly better than some of the other higher-priced Haleems. I went there in spite of severe neck pains. It was well worth it.
So, there it is, a mixed but mostly positive experience for us Haleem buffs this year. I won’t go on to rate one of them as the best. Each has a distinct taste and while some are outright bad, the others mostly vary on a small margin.
I hope the prices stabilise next year. Higher meat prices might encourage people to move to the not-so-popular-yet Harees (Chicken Haleem) in the coming year, but that’s a long way away. If and when it does happen, us connossieurs of Haleem will be there to review it.