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Haleem
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    Post #1 - January 23rd, 2014, 9:46 pm
    Post #1 - January 23rd, 2014, 9:46 pm Post #1 - January 23rd, 2014, 9:46 pm
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    The 17th Century Ottoman (Turkish) traveler Evliya Efendi (Celebi) claimed that the Prophet himself ate harisa and called it "the Lord of dishes" while my good friend Nab Uddin (tatterdemalion) claims emphatically that this savory porridge is to be his last earthly meal – something he affectionately calls “goatmeal.” Personally, I think of it as gruel. And if that doesn’t sound like it should give enough motivation to a guy, who trixie-pea claims “doesn’t know a keema from a korma” to do some research, then what does?

    The Arabic root for the word haleem or halim means “patient”, “tolerant”, and “merciful” while Al-Halimis is one of the 99 Names of God by which Muslims regard Allah in the Koran. This connection may be completely without merit but I’d like to think that just maybe the dish was given its name for symbolic reasons centuries ago. Although the dish is typically called haleem throughout the Subcontinent, it is also known throughout much of the Islamic world and elsewhere as harisa or harees, meaning “to pound or crush”. Most culinary historians believe haleem originated from Persia and was invented sometime in the sixth century. However, some Subcontinental Muslims believe that its origins stem from present-day Eastern Yemen (Hadhramaut) by way of Muslim spice traders – or at least their version, which always uses pulses, may have.

    Although the dish varies in form from region to region (throughout the Muslim world), there are essentially two types of haleem. In one iteration, wheat and/or barley (and sometimes oats) is coupled with a meat such as goat, beef, mutton, chicken, or even camel. This version is most commonly found throughout the Arab world (harisa/harees). The other, more apt to be found in and around the Subcontinent and is typically called haleem, will also incorporate two or more varieties of lentils or other pulses and is much more heavily spiced. Haleem is often cooked for several hours and is frequently pounded & stirred (with the more serious makers using a haleem spoon – which is basically a stick with a rock at the head – to develop the glutens contained within the grains to help create a smooth paste with varying degrees of viscosity from handball to downright soupy. A close cousin of Subcontinental haleem is khichra which will also contain chunks of meat along with the meat paste. In the poorer renditions of haleem, whole grain particles can easily be seen and have not been broken down as should be expected through an appropriately long cook. Haleem or harisa can be garnished in many different ways throughout the Islamic world such as with spiced clarified butter, sesame, sugar, olive oil, or nuts. But the Subcontinental Indo-Pak rendition always found around Chicago is typically garnished with julienned ginger, cilantro, lime or lemon wedges, crispy onions, and hot chile peppers.

    The 13th Century Persian Muslim poet/Sufist Rumi wrote: “In love's intoxication, the Lover and the Beloved are like the spirit in the body. They become like harisa: there is no difference between them…”


    Trixie-pea’s homemade lamb haleem (Nab bitched that the ginger was cut too damn thick)
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    The Arabs are known to have initially created and propagated the dish throughout the Muslim world over the centuries. But today, ground-zero for haleem clearly lies within the Asian Subcontinent - specifically the heavily Muslim-populated Indian city of Hyderabad. The Hyderabad Haleem Makers’ Association, an organization headed up by the owner of Pista House, is the undisputed king of Ramadan haleem production. While many specialty haleem shops did business there year-round, an additional 6000 temporary street stalls or kiosks popped up throughout the city to service the city’s haleem needs solely during the holy month of Ramadan (Ramzan) in 2011. Over the last several years there, it has become more and more routine for haleem to be included as part of (after?) iftar, or the evening meal to break the daily fast, during Ramadan – especially in Hyderabad.

    Marketing of the product by such major haleem producers has taken on a life of its own in recent years as well. To boost sales, some have not been above propagating dubious past claims made by hakims (Muslim physicians) that haleem can actually improve one’s sex life. Love for haleem is so great that since 2002, in the Hyderabadi Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, over 100 statewide post office branches have offered it during Ramadan upon request. In 2010, Hyderabadi haleem became the first non-vegetarian Indian cuisine to be granted Geographical Indication status by the Indian GIS registry office.

    Global demand for Hyderabadi haleem has also skyrocketed as well. During Ramadan 2011, Pista House (no relation to the now-defunct Devon Avenue Pakistani sandwich shop of the same name. According to Mr. Tatterdemalion, Subcontinental businessmen in the West love paying homage to highly successful/reputable restaurants back home by naming their own restaurant with the same name! (Examples: Pista House, Hyderabad House) was said to have employed over 200 cooks, sold its product at hundreds of local outlets, and claimed to have exported it to some 50 countries, sometimes selling up to 10 tons a day.

    Pista House’s annual Haleem-making contest – note the size of those haleem spoons!
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    Photo courtesy of the Pista House (Hyderabad)

    Every year on the tenth day of Ashura at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali, harissa (chicken) is prepared in large quantities, taking some 12 hours to prepare overnight, and then doled out the next morning for the needy or poor. Rene G and I had ambitions of seeing this first hand last October but unfortunately it didn’t come to fruition. I’m really hoping to make it happen this year since it sounds like an amazing gathering.

    Here in Chicago, haleem can be found at many Pakistani and Hyderabadi restaurants along Devon Avenue and can also be found in a handful of places throughout the suburbs. Some restaurants offer it year-round while others serve it only during Ramadan and other special holidays (Eid). I have yet to come across an Arabian version (harees/harissa) anywhere around town. But I’m sure someone is making this lentil-less version somewhere during Ramadan…at least at their home.


    Here are a Few Places to Get Haleem Around Chicago:

    Ghareeb Nawaz/Ghareeb Nawaz Express
    Ghareeb Nawaz, the name an homage to the Sufi patron saint of the poor, normally prices a bowl of their chicken haleem for about $2.99. But during the Holy month of Ramadan, when demand is at its peak, they offer it for a mere $1.99! If you want to try a slightly lighter and less common version of this weighty, high-caloric dish, try their chicken haleem. Ghareeb Nawaz Express (804 W. Roosevelt near UIC) claims to offer both beef and chicken versions for around $2.99. But be sure to call first. The Devon location makes batches every other day and will sometimes run out while Express seldom, if ever, truly makes the stuff. Many people I talked to along the way sneered at the thought of haleem made with chicken. I found this interesting since it has apparently been around for quite some time but offered in a fairly limited number of places in Pakistan. Its appeal, like other “healthier” meatless versions of haleem made with cauliflower, white pumpkin, potato, carrot or broccoli, for example, apparently are growing ever more popular in Pakistan. If you have only one chance to try haleem, I think this rendition is one of the more unique and tasty versions around.

    Pepper & Salt (Schaumburg)
    If you’re anywhere near Schaumburg and have a hankering for haleem, Pepper & Salt is your place. Wheat, barley, lentils, and beef meld together as one, creating an ideal creamy texture. Typical spices used in Subcontinental haleem such tamarind, clove, cinnamon, cumin, coriander are beautifully integrated into the dish. This is some of the best haleem in town. Flatbreads such as their paratha and the less common/rarely seen sheermal, a slightly sweet version of a paratha, are also worth trying out. The photo at the top of this post is from Pepper & Salt.

    Khan BBQ – Like many other places up and down Devon, Khan BBQ only serves its haleem (beef) on special holidays. Again, be sure to call in advance. I‘ve had it only once and thought it a worthy effort.

    Sheesh Mahal Dhaba – I’m pretty confident that overall this is the worst haleem I’ve tried and that’s a shame being that’s it’s one of the few Hyderabadi restaurants found in Chicago. On the day that I tried his haleem, they seemed to have only cooked it for at most a few hours, as the grains were still completely intact and, thus, didn’t create the desired smoothness typically found in versions I personally enjoy. It has a muted seasoning profile and wasn’t even served with any of the obligatory garnishes (ginger, onion, cilantro, hot chile peppers), merely topped with crispy onions. I couldn’t detect usage of any spices typically found in garam masala such as black pepper, cumin, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom. The owners and staff here couldn’t be nicer but if you’re explicitly looking for a decent haleem, stay away from this one.

    Hyderabad House Family Dining - A meaty goat haleem. Highly spiced with chiles and black pepper. Other garam masala spices are muted and are already mixed in along with a hard-boiled egg. The owner said that this haleem is ghee-less. Also, unlike most of his customers across the street at Hyderabad House who are almost always Hyderabadi, most his customers here are Hindus and have always requested a cleaner style haleem. You can also find haleem across the street at Hyderabad House (only during Ramadan) even though the outdoor signage falsely claims they make it weekly.

    New Naan on Devon – Another one of the few places serving up the more sought-after goat style haleem. This noticeably milky white-colored haleem has the appearance of unbroken-down chunks of grain and has a highly gluttonous/rubbery texture. Nab’s always telling me how he likes his haleem with the consistency of a handball. So, this one’s probably right up his alley. Maybe other more seasoned haleem eaters enjoy the handball style (c8w? Zim?). Served only on weekends.

    Other places I’ve tried haleem are Daata Dabar (goat. Weekends only?), Usmania (beef), Sabri Nihari (beef), Spinzer (beef), Desi Pizza & Grill (in Lombard. Beef) and Lal Qila (in Palatine. Beef). To varying degrees, all are worth trying with the exception of Sheesh Mahal Dhaba , Lal Qila and, maybe, Spinzer. The biggest variables between them being their viscosity and/or how much time they spend adequately breaking down the grain.

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    Beef Haleem recipe from Pepper & Salt (no ghee mentioned…but it’s most certainly being used.)



    Ghareeb Nawaz
    2032 W Devon Ave, Chicago
    (773) 761-5300

    Ghareeb Nawaz Express
    807 W Roosevelt Rd, Chicago
    (312) 433-0123

    Pepper & Salt
    2263 W Schaumburg Rd, Schaumburg
    (847) 524-1401

    Khan BBQ
    2401 W Devon Ave, Chicago
    (773) 274-8600

    Sheesh Mahal Dhaba
    6355 N Maplewood Ave, Chicago
    (773) 274-4444

    Hyderabad House Family Dining
    2226 W Devon Ave, Chicago
    (773) 338-5566

    New Naan on Devon
    2241 W Devon Ave, Chicago
    (773) 262-7676
    Last edited by PIGMON on January 24th, 2014, 3:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - January 24th, 2014, 8:06 am
    Post #2 - January 24th, 2014, 8:06 am Post #2 - January 24th, 2014, 8:06 am
    This is awesome. I think you've inspired my stay home indoors and cook project for the weekend.
  • Post #3 - January 24th, 2014, 1:12 pm
    Post #3 - January 24th, 2014, 1:12 pm Post #3 - January 24th, 2014, 1:12 pm
    PIGMON, On a day like today, from the moment I opened this thread, I knew what I was going to have today for lunch.

    PIGMON wrote:Here are a Few Places to Get Haleem Around Chicago:

    Pepper & Salt (Schaumburg)
    If you’re anywhere near Schaumburg and have a hankering for haleem, Pepper & Salt is your place. Wheat, barley, lentils, and beef meld together as one, creating an ideal creamy texture. Typical spices used in Subcontinental haleem such tamarind, clove, cinnamon, cumin, coriander are beautifully integrated into the dish. This is some of the best haleem in town. Flatbreads such as their paratha and the less common/rarely seen sheermal, a slightly sweet version of a paratha, are also worth trying out. The photo at the top of this post is from Pepper & Salt.

    Pepper & Salt
    2263 W Schaumburg Rd, Schaumburg
    (847) 524-1401


    Pepper & Salt is no longer but fear not, in it's place is Hot N Spicy (but menu states Shahi Nihari). Even after speaking with the mgr and asking if they are now called Hot N Spicy (to which he replied yes) I'm still not sure on the exact name. He did say they have a number of other locations and per their website it does indeed list two other locations (Villa Park & coming soon to Morton Grove), so I'm assuming one could get a Haleem fix at these other locations. I also noticed on the website that the cover page features what looks like to be haleem.

    The lunch menu features lots of sandwiches (many versions of Philly cheesesteaks oddly enough). Haleem is not listed on the menu, I had to ask for it.

    With a side of onion kulcha bread, I was in heaven dining on this dish. Obviously very singular in texture/flavor but with a dish of slivered ginger, cucumber slices, chopped cilantro, one can change things a bit.

    One serving & a side of bread (<$15) was more than enough food for me, I actually have lunch for tomorrow due to the amount leftover.

    Thanks for posting about haleem!
    Last edited by Sweet Willie on January 25th, 2014, 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #4 - January 24th, 2014, 3:07 pm
    Post #4 - January 24th, 2014, 3:07 pm Post #4 - January 24th, 2014, 3:07 pm
    Shahi Nihari in Villa Park is reliable and has good beef haleem! Seebee's favorite Desi Grill & Pizza as well. Thanks for the post as usual, PIGMON. I've done some work with the Islamic Foundation School in the past few years and discovered better food in VP than I ever knew about (or in some cases than ever was there) growin' up, though I still of course return for perennials Gyros Express, Tae Fu, and Lunar.

    Best haleem I ever had was at the now-closed Bhabi's Kitchen, for a special event. It had lamb, whole spices, and handfuls of fresh cilantro.
  • Post #5 - January 24th, 2014, 3:52 pm
    Post #5 - January 24th, 2014, 3:52 pm Post #5 - January 24th, 2014, 3:52 pm
    By golly, PIGMON has done it again! And you know what, I was surprised (and simultaneously impressed) that he didn't turn those giant spoons into a phallic reference. The fact that he refrained demonstrates a newfound maturity that many thought was impossible for him to reach. Kudos, sir.
    "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity."
  • Post #6 - January 24th, 2014, 3:58 pm
    Post #6 - January 24th, 2014, 3:58 pm Post #6 - January 24th, 2014, 3:58 pm
    Great report and I'm very glad to see it in its unabridged form. Thanks, for posting this. I haven't been a huge fan of the renditions I've tried but clearly, I've only just scratched the surface.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - May 27th, 2014, 6:56 pm
    Post #7 - May 27th, 2014, 6:56 pm Post #7 - May 27th, 2014, 6:56 pm
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    One of the biggest highlights of my stay in LA so far was finally tracking down my first non-Subcontinental bowl of haleem (halim). Chicago is loaded with places making Pakistani and Hyderabadi (Indian) versions of haleem but I've had a fairly difficult time of it trying to find a Persian/Arabic version. Surprisingly, the same has also been true when looking for it in Dearborn, Michigan.

    Unlike its Indo-Pak cousin, Persian/Arabic halim doesn't include pulses (daal) or any bold spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamon, clove, etc. There are many iterations of harissa/harees/halim being made throughout the Arab and Persian world but, generally speaking, it is simply being made with a grain-s such as wheat/oats/bulgur (usually wheat), a meat such as beef or turkey, onions, and then is garnished with cinnamon, sugar, ghee, or maybe nuts or dried fruit.

    According to the waitstaff at the Farsi Café, the halim served here is a pretty typical Persian expression, being made simply with wheat and either lamb or turkey, then topped with ghee and cinnamon and is usually only eaten in the morning.

    Even though this dish is intrinsically more elemental (blander) than its Subcontinental counterpart due to its lack of spicing, I still greatly enjoyed this slow-cooked savory gruel. If you like cream of wheat and don’t mind the addition of macerated meat, you’ll probably like Persian-style halim as well.

    Farsi Café
    1916 Westwood Blvd (in Westwood)
    Los Angeles, CA 90025
    (310) 475-4500

    *
    Last edited by PIGMON on June 23rd, 2014, 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #8 - May 28th, 2014, 2:10 am
    Post #8 - May 28th, 2014, 2:10 am Post #8 - May 28th, 2014, 2:10 am
    When I worked for Persians in LA we did one with cow foot in similar fashion.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata

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