Hyderabad: The traditional haleem as part of the iftar feast is passé. But the only dish that ever took its place is also on its way out — thanks to the inexorable, inevitable demands of mass production.
Once upon a time, the bazaars of the old city were redolent with the smell of pathar ka gosht. Meat marinated overnight slow-cooked on slabs of stone, heated by charcoal fires underneath. The slabs being thick, it took ages for the mutton to cook. But by the time it was done, the meat acquired a silky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Today, standing cheek by jowl with idli and dosa stalls in Moosabowli and Nayapul, these stalls are doing brisk business selling the modern version of pathar ka gosht. But it is leaving old timers with a bad taste.
“Nothing can beat pathar ka gosht cooked on charcoal,” says a thoroughly disgruntled Khaja Miyan, picking at his food. “Now they use gas ovens to cook it. How can it taste the same?”
The cook, 20-something Abdul Jaleel, smiles. “If we used charcoal, we would be able to serve only 10 to 15 customers a day. We still make sure that the meat is tender.”
Stall owner Nazeer Ali, who also sells fish and prawns (spelt “crawns” on the menu) is upbeat. “We realised people were looking for change. Even though not many shops are open all night yet this Ramzan, we are busy from Iftar to Sehri every night.”
Obviously, all customers are not Khaja Miyan.
Busy polishing off his pathar ka gosht with rumali roti, Mohammed Ayub could just manage a one-liner: “I’ve never tasted anything quite like it”.
Ah well, ignorance is bliss.