The Story of Hyderabad’s Iconic Dish: Hyderabadi Haleem!

Although Hyderabadi Haleem was popularised by the Nizams of Hyderabad its fons et origo is Arabic. The first-ever recipe of Haleem dates back to the 10th-century text which was then called “Harissa”. It is surmised that this hearty stew was carried to India by Arab soldiers. Haleem along with Nihari & Biryani was considered as cantonment meals to feed army battalions “Lashkaray Fauj” due to its nutritional robustness. A few renowned authors of food-history believed the original version of this age-old dish first came to the coast of Malabar along with Arab traders. And it continued to evolve soaking in the flavours of native spices as it travelled different regions transforming into an exotic delicacy before it reached the royal dining. 

It was in the 1930s, Sultan Said Nawaz Jung, a descendant of the Al Quaiti dynasty and ruler of small princely state Hadramauth (formerly Yemen) was positioned as one of the principal nobles in the royal court of Nizams of Hyderabad. He gave this dish a cult following and won many hearts by serving Harissa, an Arabic speciality dish to guests in the dinners he hosted. Until one day Mahbub Ali Khan, the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad who was also greatly impressed with the unique texture and the indulging taste added it to the royal menu as Haleem. Later, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan the seventh made it the Holy grail of traditional Hyderabadi cuisine. Then the Khanasamas or chefs of royal kitchen refined it into the Hyderabadi version, “Hyderabadi Haleem” using local spice blend which is different from the original Arabic taste.

During the early years of discovery of Haleem, Irani Hotels used to serve the original recipe Harissa. Until 1953, when Aga Hussain Zabed first introduced Haleem to their menu at Madina Hotel which was priced 3 paise which is less than a cent. 

Hyderabadi Haleem is now integral to the Hyderabadi culinary tradition such that it has been awarded Geographical Indication status by Indian GI registry authority. It is the first meat-based dish of Indian to have received this tag. The interesting fact about this tag is that Haleem cannot be sold as Hyderabadi Haleem unless it meets the necessary standards laid down for it. We will bring more interesting information about the qualifying standards of Haleem in our upcoming posts.

Isn’t the journey of this exotic dish fascinating? Samudhra brings this ancient delicacy in its most authentic form to New Jersey to give our guests the royal experience of Hyderabadi cuisine. Try our Hyderabadi Haleem today! 


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