If Karim’s is Goliath, then Naim is David

Just past the Karim’s at Gali Kebabiyan in Shahjahanabad/ Old Delhi lays Naim’s haleem counter. Gali Kebabiyan is a narrow lane, which has become synonymous with the now world famous Karim’s brand, but there is more to it than just Karim’s.

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I have been told by the Qureshi brothers, the one, who sells mouth-watering butter-dripping kebabs at the beginning of the Urdu Bazaar that their great-grand father once had a mutton shop in Gali Kebabiyan. People, used to come, show the particular part of the mutton from which the kebab was supposed to be made, and then wait for the final kebabs.

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Cut to 2016, the only other eatery in Gali Kebabiyan other then the Karim’s is Naim’s haleem counter. Don’t get carried away by the headline, there is no enmity between Karim’s and Naim. Naim is just a humble-haleem seller, who believes in feeding all.

Naim’s day begins at 4 in the morning, when he starts preparing a cauldron/degchi full of haleem. A plateful of Naim’s Haleem cost Rs 10 and Rs 20. Children, young and old alike, come with tandoori rotis and get to eat a meal at just around Rs 20.

My tryst with haleem

My adopted home, Delhi, has taught me about many dishes. One of them being, haleem, but Delhi’s haleem is a far cry from Hyderabad’s haleem. I was reading somewhere that there are three different varieties of haleem in the sub continent. I like to believe that haleem and nihari belong to the same family of dishes, a hearty dish cooked overnight. I don’t know what the tradition of eating haleem in Hyderabad is, but in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh many eat it with biryani. In fact, in Jamia Nagar, some carts sell a kind of biryani, which is referred as Meerut ki Biryani. The biryani is served with a bowl of haleem. Now, haleem cannot be made of white or lean meat, because if it is cooked overnight, it will get dissolved. So, haleem has to be made of red meat, just like nihari.

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I have had the good fortune of eating three varieties of haleem — Hyderabadi, Northern Indian and Bangladeshi. All three are very different from each other. Hyderabadi haleem is the richest of the lot. It has grounded dry fruits, ghee and oozes a royal taste. The overnight cooking leaves the meat in the form of a mash. The North Indian haleem is a common man’s food. The North Indian haleem is generally made with wheat, barley, pulses and just the tongue and chin part of the buff. The Bangladeshi or the Bengal-side haleem has the meaty part of the animal. A bowl of Bangladeshi or Bengal-side haleem has meaty chunks floating in porridge like gravy.

Here is a list of haleem sellers in Delhi

Old Delhi: Naim at Gali Kebabiyan

Jamia Nagar: Purani Dilli restaurant in Zakir Nagar main road

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