For me, Hyderabad and Haleem are inseparable. So, it was pretty obvious that when I got the opportunity to join a food walk in the city on a visit, I doubled up to take the spot. There was one activity on the list that got my attention—a visit to the Haleem factory of Pista House.
The guys behind Pista House are the haleem czars of the city. Mohd Abdul Majeed started a bakery near Charminar almost 25 years back, but back then this was just a bakery that was known for its buttery goods. Soon after, the Majeed family decided to add their family’s special Haleem to the menu. Today, their brand is synonymous with Hyderabadi Haleem with over 300 stores and kiosks all over the city and has also built a strong global presence now.
With such a global appeal and vast business model, I imagined the factory to be an industrial steel kitchen with sophisticated pieces of machinery. But was surprised to see something quite the contrary—a warehouse with a production line of wood-fired ovens that had raised the temperatures of the space to almost 50 degrees.
Two minutes in and the first thing to leave my side was my overheated cellphone that refused to switch on due to excessive heat. While I walked around the warehouse understanding the process of making Haleem from the employees of the Pista House factory, I promised myself to never ever waste a morsel of Haleem!
The secret recipe
When I asked Mohammed Abdul Moshi (Managing Director, Pista House) about their secret recipe, he chuckled and said that each house has its own unique recipe and that theirs has been the same for the past 20 years.
The broad recipe of the dish includes the meat of your choice, pounded wheat, ghee, lentils, ginger, garlic, chillies along with a host of whole spices such as shahi jeera, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, saffron, jaggery, natural gum, dry fruits, rose petals and some more.
This mix is slow-cooked in a pot placed inside a clay oven that gets its heat from wood-fire. After having simmered for 12 hours, the pot is covered off with a clay panel. During this time the meat mix is constantly being stirred to distribute the heat evenly.
Following this, the workers bring out large Ghotni (wooden hammers) to pound the meat for more than three hours to beat it into a fine paste. Post this, the cooked lentils and ghee is added to make it creamier. Once done, the Haleem is packed into airtight containers and shipped to various outlets in the city.
Making it healthy
While that is the quick-take of the recipe, Moshi explains that in order to get the texture and flavours right, it is absolutely critical to get the meat to wheat ratio right. The Haleem giants have decided to tweak their mix by adding Chakhao, a variety of black rice sourced from Manipur. This has been done in collaboration with the NorthEast Foundation. One of the most important reasons for doing this is to make the haleem healthier by adding the nutrients from the black rice.
The patented pride
Just like Darjeeling tea, Goan Feni and Banarsi Silk, in 2010, even haleem got its Geographical Indication (GI) status by the Government of India making it ‘The Hyderabadi Haleem’. What this means is that no other state or city can sell or market their version of Haleem as Hyderabadi Haleem, it has to be cooked in the city to be given that name.
This also made the meat stew the first non-vegetarian dish to have received the global patent. The petition for the patent was filed by the members of Haleem Makers' Association of Hyderabad. According to them, the qualifying factors for the Hyderabadi Haleem is that it has to be goat meat, cooked in pure ghee and the cooking has to be done over firewood for 12 hours. You can't cook on an LPG stove and claim the GI tag.
Getting it home
Taste aside, what makes Pista House so famous is the fact that the brand has aced its distribution network by renting out spots across Hyderabad, main airports in the country and even making their food available all over the world through online ordering.
Pista House has designed a special vacuum seal container that helps the haleem travel longer. During Ramadan, they ship their products all the way to the UAE and the USA creating a global footprint for this IG dish and their brand.
To order: www.pistahouse.in