Last year, SodaBottleOpenerWala took everyone by surprise by introducing a Hyderabadi menu that drew inspiration from the city’s Irani Cafes. An old Bombay Parsi diner inspired cafe dishing out Daalcha and Bagara Khana! I had my doubts but was bowled over by the fantastic Haleem and Marag. The SBOW Haleem is markedly different from the commercial Haleem sold during Ramzan. It’s slow cooked in handis for hours, but it is not doused in Sherwa or laced with pepper. Rich in meat and subtly spiced with a soft and supple texture that offers a hint of fibrousness and elasticity. Perhaps most remarkable thing about SBOW Haleem is the sheer consistency – I’ve ordered the Haleem thrice, and it was amazing every time.
Every year, during the holy month of Ramzan, Hyderabad gets soaked in Haleem fervour. From fine-dines to the neighbourhood Kebab shop, everyone joins the craze. SodaBottleOpenerWala is taking things up a notch by crafting an entire menu devoted to a myriad of different interpretations of this rich Hyderabadi mutton porridge. The ‘Gyarah Handi Haleeem’ promotion will continue until Ramzan and features eleven variants prepared using everything from chicken and mutton to soyabean and duck.
There are a couple of vegetarian variants – one with Sweet Corn and one with Soya Beans. While most vegetable Haleems try to replicate the appearance and texture of a Mutton Haleem, SBOW has taken some creative liberties and focussed on the flavours. The end result is something that is quite different from the actual Hyderabadi Haleem, but is quite enjoyable. The non-vegetarian variants with fish and prawn didn’t quite work. The soft texture of both these ingredients make them particularly challenging for Haleem. Similarly, a Chicken Haleem invariably ends up being underwhelming because Chicken doesn’t have a pronounced flavour like red meat. The biggest surprise for me was the Duck Haleem – dark, with a hint of caramelisation and adequately spiced. The Turkey Haleem was also quite decent and widely appreciated on the table, but it was the duck that caught my fancy. The regular Mutton Haleem is is being served in two variants. The ‘Special’ comes with a portion of Tala Hua Gosht. Similarly, the Chicken Haleem can also be ordered with an add-on of boiled egg. As I mentioned earlier, the perennial SBOW Mutton Haleem is pretty amazing. However, even that ended up getting excelled by ‘Anaida’s Original Persian Haleem’. Anaida, a 90s pop-star, has hosted Persian cuisine pop-ups at several SodaBottle outlets and is the person behind this recipe. Apparently, Anaida loves to have her Haleem with a bit of sugar or honey. We weren’t quite as adventurous but fell in love with her Haleem all the same. Ananda’s Haleem is light on ghee and heat but high on flavour. This dish is even more restrained than SBOW’s usual Haleem, and is a far cry from the ones you’d find at Shah Ghouse or Cafe 555. This isn’t a dish that will appeal to everyone, but it’s a dish that every haleem lover should try.