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 then called as “Harissa”. It is believed 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 also believed that Arab traders were the first to bring Harissa to the coast of Malabar. Afterwhich, it continued to evolve soaking in the flavours of native spices as it travelled to different regions. Over the years it transformed 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 a principal noble in the court of Nizams of Hyderabad. He gave this dish a cult following and won many hearts by serving Harissa to his guests. Until one day, the indulging taste and unique texture of Harissa also impressed the sixth Nizam, Mahbub Ali Khan. It was then added to the royal menu as Haleem.  The Khanasamas or royal chefs refined it into the Hyderabadi version, using local spice blend different from the original Arabic taste. Later, the seventh Nizam made Mir Osman Ali Khan “Hyderabadi Haleem” the Holy grail of traditional Hyderabadi cuisine.

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

Hyderabadi Haleem is now integral to the Hyderabadi culinary tradition and it is also awarded Geographical Indication status. It is the first meat-based dish in Indian cuisine to have received this tag by Indian GI registry authority. Another 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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