Adnan and Ayan, brothers and founders of the ‘Rumi Food Company’ in Gurugram, talk about “Haleem”, its origin, back-story, and its cultural and religious significance
Ayan and Adnan, brothers and entrepreneurs, are the founders of the traditional Indian restaurant ‘Rumi Food Company’. While Ayan handles business and is essentially the brain behind Rumi Food Company, Adnan is the heart. Adnan is not only a trained and experienced chef, but also a food enthusiast and a flag-bearer of the traditional cooking styles and methods.
Rumi Food Company, through its name and work wants to spread the message of love in the world, like the great Persian poet ‘Rumi’, through food instead of words.
In a conversation with Knocksense, the brothers talked about their love for food and the significance of the dish ‘Haleem’
Haleem is one of the most popular meat dishes in the world, originally from middle east, it is a slow cooked stew made of lentils and meat.
Much like the ingredients of the dish, their are several variants and adaptations of the dish itself; in America it is called Farina, in Turkey Kashka, in Arab countries Harees or Jareesh, whereas in certain parts of India it is also known as Daleem or Khichda.
Kitb-e-tahree the oldest known Arabic recipe book defines Haleem as a dish originally made of lentils and meat, meant for kings and khalifas of Bhagdad, later adopted by the Arabs who called it Harees or Jareesh.
The dish came into existence because of a lack of resources and the need for a filling meal that would provide strength to soldiers during the many wars the Arabic army waged. In their need to find something easy to cook, which did not require a lot of water, the Arabic soldiers moved away from dal or curry and resorted to a simple meal cooked in a single pot for hours; and that is how the dish came to be.
It is believed that an Arab soldier, who became a part of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s army introduced Haleem to the Nizam, who loved the dish and its sheer simplicity. So they started making Haleem in Hyderabad, where the Arab soldier called it Jareesh, while people of Hyderabad modified its name to suit their own ways and called it Haleem or Daleem (since Haleem is an auspicious term, some of the followers were reluctant to say it, out of respect, hence they started calling the dish Daleem).
Much like the Spanish ‘Paella’, there is no exact recipe for the dish, it varies from region to region; the process of cooking and preparation however, remains similar. Haleem is made by pounding meat and lentils for hours so that it gets difficult to differentiate the two. The meat used should be boneless, de-boned or pulled, it should be mutton, beef or any other strong animal meat (since chicken is not considered a good substitute).
Haleem is a pate or a dense paste, hence it cannot be consumed on its own, it generally needs to be accompanied with bread and/or ‘Paya’ soup to make it easy to swallow.
Haleem is a culturally significant dish because of its history and because it denotes simplicity and hardship, hence holds a great message and meaning behind it and is often cooked during the month of Ramadan and during Moharram
Talking about food in general, the brothers believe that every dish has a story behind it and it is extremely important to talk about these stories, for food, much like love, is a universal language.
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