It is Saturday noon time, and a motley group of food freaks walk purposely into the Gali Kababiyan at Jama Masjid with a determination to get their haleem fix. We reach kareem and find this patli gali running through its empire. As this gali takes a turn, it reveals a man with a big pateela, and crowds in an almost frenzied state. It is here that Naeem patiently doles out haleem at Rs 10 a plate. We join the commotion and patiently wait for our turn.
Some time later we get what could be called a lavish treat for our Rs 10 topped with mint leaves, lemon juice, coriander leaves, chopped ginger root, and green chilies. And I can understand the enthusiasm of the populace – this Haleem is yummy. In consistency it is chunky (like its cousin Khichda), and especially flavoursome. I get a chunk of freshly cooked tongue in my mouth which tastes exceptional – meaty, slightly gamey but spongy and melting in the mouth. Naeem peers over his patila and informs me proudly that his family has been serving Haleem from this very spot for the last 125 years.
If you think 125 years is a long time, consider this – the history of Haleem can be traced centuries back to Iran, where originally it was made with camel meat and burghul wheat. When the dish travelled to India, camel meat was replaced with meat of goat and burghul wheat by wheat (dalia). It was once reserved for the royalty but later it was given to soldiers in a leather pouch so that they could just squeeze it into their mouths while riding the horse without dismounting from it. When the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb surrounded the Golconda Fort, the cooks in the Nizam’s army created this overnight and fed to the soldiers on battle field.
Its better known (and now recipient of the GI badge) version of Haleem is sold in Hyderabad, especially during Ramzan. The effect of the Nizams is evident there and the haleem has a smooth consistency and a rich finish. Naeem’s Haleem on the other hand is more rustic, chunky and lighter. Which one do I prefer? Well, it is like asking me who do I prefer – Selma Hayek or Penelope Cruz? Both of them are different and beautiful!
Timings: 12-4pm| Address: Gali Kababiyan, Matia Mahal, Inside Karim’s Lane, Jama Masjid, Delhi | Phone: 92132-25281