Celebrating the Month of Ramadan with Haleem
at Shiraz Golden restaurant
There are certain cuisines which you spontaneously associate with a city and when I think of Kolkata one of the first cuisines which comes to my mind even before I can think of Bengali cuisine is the Kolkatan Mughlai cuisine. It perhaps started a good century and a half ago when Wajid Ali Shah settled here and gave the city one if most valuable gem , the talented chefs from his kitchen and their legacy continues with delightful restaurants such as Shiraz Golden Restaurant at Park Street.
When someone mentions 'Haleem' it takes me right back to my childhood days when my father would get some haleem before coming back from his chamber. We would always enjoy it with some kebabs alone since my father would always say that it is heavy enough to be taken on its own.
I am sure most Kolkattans will have their own nostalgic memories with this comforting dish. I for one cannot think of the holy month of Ramadan without a warm comforting bowl of haleem topped with some Birista (golden fried onions) and a bit of lemon juice.
In Kolkata when it comes to Mughlai food Shiraz is one of the oldest names to reckon with. Though their Biryani was what they were once famous for and is still extremely popular their assorted kebabs and gravy dishes are equally delicious.
One look at the glass counter in the restaurant through which you can see rows of kebabs hanging on skewers ready to be served to customers and you can literally feat your eyes and bask in the delightful aroma but till Eid they have the famous dish on offer which is only part of this season of Ramadan till Eid. What more there is much more to look out for.
Haleem as we know it in Kolkata is a warm mixture of pulses grains and meat which is slow cooked for a long period and flavoured with spices and clarified butter it is a delight in every spoonful.
Mr.Ishtiaque Ahmed told us that the secret is not only in the blend of pulses, cereals meat and spices but in the process of cooking. Shiraz's haleem is made extra special with the overnight slow cooking . If you know a bit about slow cooking you would know how good it tastes when certain dishes are slow cooked and I can tell you that their traditional haleem is exquisite. A bit on the spicier side this one is a lovely accompaniment to the rains in Kolkata. warm , spicy and rich its a meal in itself and you do not need anything else to go with it.
Shiraz has tried to give a few options to their customer's as well by introducing a few variants some of which were part of last year's Ramzan special as well.
So there is the lesser spicy Afgani haleem with melt in the mouth meatballs, Hyderabadi haleem, Irani haleem which includes more meat than the traditional haleem served in Kolkata and there is also the Shahi Gohst haleem.
When I asked Mr.Ahmed if there was any connection between these names and their country of origin he proudly says they are all in house creations by their talented chefs.
Do not miss the Haleem Festival at Shiraz which is on till this year's Eid. And I might be a bit biased about this since it reminds me of my years of growing up but do pack some kebabs as well.