Monday, September 12, 2011

The Creepiest and Most Interesting Thing I Ate in India: Hyderabadi Haleem from Pista House

I had a daily driver named Prasad during my four weeks in India, and for some reason, he seemed like a fine person from which to trust food recommendations.  It was only because of him that I decided to try out a local favorite dish, haleem.

Now, let me summarize the key haleem facts for you:
  • Haleem is a Hyderabadi specialty popular among the Muslim population, offered only during the month of Ramadan 
  • Haleem is essentially a wheat / meat paste; the traditional cooking process is a whopping 12 hours involving typically two men cooking 24 hour-soaked Haleem wheat, lamb, spices, dried fruits and ghee over a low flame, stirring it with wooden sticks during the 12 hours until it develops a sticky-smooth consistency.  It is then topped with fried onions and cashews.

Prasad took me to Pista House to try my first haleem.  For about three dollars, he went to a roadside stand alongside the street and came back with a plastic bag holding this small container:

Pista House appears to be world famous, but my colleagues told me that their quality has declined a bit in recent years.  Still, they are super mega popular.  Actually, every roadside haleem stand seemed to have a healthy congregation of folk digging into these plastic pints.

Not knowing what to expect when I opened the container, I seriously did not expect this.  Oh sweet ghee!

And then I certainly didn't expect this consistency...

Heaping gobs of the gooiest meat glue you can imagine.  

Once I got over the strange texture: a mushy sticky mess where I cannot tell just how they managed to get the meat so smooth and creamy, I must admit that haleem has some tasty flavor!  The slow cooking technique infuses a nice spiciness throughout the cup.  Still, the texture is hard to overcome.  I could not imagine eating this entire container myself (and this is a typical single serving!), so I called it quits after about 4 spoonfuls.

Prasad tells me that haleem-tolerance is acquired, and over time I would be able to finish the containers up for multiple meals a day.  I will just have to trust him on that!

Pista House
Multiple locations throughout Hyderabad


  1. i have never seen ANYTHING like that!! wow.

  2. MEAT PASTE! Sounds like a good name for a band. Not for a food.

  3. Wow - I don't have much to say about this, but at least you tried it, which is probably more than I could say for myself!