There was a definite trigger which led us to discover Pista House Hyderabad for the first time. Bad Haleem.
Initiation to Pista House Hyderabad Haleem
I had my first taste of haleem at Shoppers Stop with a Biba Salesperson, whose name I don’t remember now. Around 5.30 in the evening, he ended his roja and offered haleem to me. This was home made and with beef. That was also the first time I had beef. I don’t remember much but it was homemade and spicy and excitement of eating beef was much more than anything else. Again, as I was tasting haleem for the first time, my thoughts were towards liking or disliking it rather than understanding the finer aspects of the dish.
After 10 years, during one Ramazan, we picked up Haleem from Arsalan. Many people in Kolkata may go ga ga over that but two things did not work for us. Fishing for mutton pieces in the haleem and over spiced and hot quotient which killed the basic taste.
I have no idea if this is called Kolkata Haleem or why there is a difference between the Haleem of Hyderabad and Kolkata. A little search threw up that Pista House Hyderabad haleem is one of the best and also they deliver across India. We ordered. We waited eagerly. The much sought after plastic container arrived. Henceforth it became a ritual every season.
When there was an invitation from Novotel Hyderabad for Ramazan food trail, the top recall name was Pista House. We started our Haleem trail with a visit to Pista House Hyderabad factory at Towli Chowki. The heat was bad and we were all geared up with sunscreen, wet wipes and drinking water to experience how Haleem was made.
It’s almost 2 decades now that in any Bengali marriage one used to set up ‘Bhiyen’. A head cook or a thakur, who in most of the cases would be from Odisha or Midnapore along with his team, would set up a temporary kitchen cooking arena. He would set up an earthen oven with all utensils needed for bulk cooking for the next 6- 7 days. All meals would be catered to by this kitchen and this was one of the main action areas. When I entered the Pista House Hyderabad, it reminded me of a Bhiyen for the humane process of making with least intervention of machines and also of an industrial kitchen for the scale of the operations.
Production of Haleem at Pista House Hyderabad
When we spoke to Mohammad Abdul Mohasi, the owner, he confirmed that around 2000 Kg of Haleem is made during weekdays and on weekends, it’s around 4000 to 5000 Kgs. The process starts from 3 Am, when the meat arrives at the factory. Two rows of permanent structured ovens are constructed and you can see haleem at different stages of preparation. After the meat is washed and cleaned, it is put for boiling with Papaya, green chilies and salt.The mutton boils for over 6 – 7 hours and then wheat is added. One new addition this year has been of black rice – chakhao, the black rice form Manipur. The wheat is in the ratio of 1:1 and that’s what makes Hyderabad Haleem distinct and unique. It’s mixed for half an hour and then the spices are added. On further inquiring the split of the spice mix, we were told that there is cinnamon, kabab chini or tailed pepper, rose petals, cardamom, rose petals and garam masala. The entire mixture is kept for for Dum or slow cooking for an 1 hour and then the pounding of the meat starts.
The Pounding of the meat at Pista House Hyderabad
The owners tried to automate this process and a reco in machines from China did not yield satisfactory results. When there was an opportunity, I had to try my hand at the pounding. Long, sturdy bamboo stems with a wooden flat head is used to pound the meat. One person from either side pounds the meat and with my experience, I could tell that this needs a huge amount of strength and manual labour. Once the pounding ends, the finished haleem is transferred to various coloured boxes and then loaded into delivery vans and then they are on their way.
Secret of making a good haleem as Pista House Hyderabad does it
There are 200 employees working at Pista House Hyderabad for 12 hours shift and each shift ends with cleaning of the utensils and leaving it ready for the next day. Rehman, my co worker who was patient enough to teach me, later agreed for a selfie and shared the secret recipe of a good haleem. He says, one has to have a good niyat or heart to make a haleem and should make it with utmost care and affection. Secondly, he says that just as we are fasting, we know this haleem will be consumed by our brethren for breaking their fast. So we cannot compromise on the quality of the ingredients and the process.
From Factory to plate – A long journey indeed for Pista House Hyderabad
Even if in a small way, I was curious about who will eventually eat the Haleem in which I had a role to play? I had no way to figure that out. I myself had the Haleem at Pista House at the last stop of our Ramazan Food trail. After we had been to Nimrah, Milan Juice centre, Akbar fast food and few others, we braved the untimely rains at Hyderabad to reach Pista House at the Charminar area. At almost midnight, this place was bustling with people and had traffic police to manage the crowd. There were atleast more than 50 delivery boys in a make shift arrangement with a cash counter being set up and various sizes of containers packed with haleem disappearing fast. Noor Mohd khan with no. 154 was even ready to lend his branded yellow cap for a photo. We packed few too. There is single, double and a family pack.
Are the whispers right? Was the success too early?
I wish I could have ended it above. I can’t. Hotel Shadab, another must visit ramazan place has a waiting of 30 minutes at midnight and both the floors are filled to the brim. Opposite lies Medina Hotel, the first hotel to introduce Haleem commercially, looks like a superstar of yesteryear waiting for a side role. There are whispers in Hyderabad that Pista house Haleem may not be the best anymore and when we tasted the haleem of Shadab at almost 1 AM, we found it smoother and flavourful. Pista House were the first ones to export Haleem across India and with massive expansion plans and counters at various Indian Airports, it’s a success story which is good to hear.
We were on a food trail invited by Novotel Airport Hyderabad and enjoyed our stay for couple of days in the beautiful property.