A bowl of burning hot halim with chunks of tender meat, vaporising with an incredible aroma, decorated with coriander leaves and caramelised onion - is a visual delight.
When it enters our mouth, it is a treat to our taste buds. After having a spoon full of halim, one can feel the kick of the spices. The flavour is enhanced by the sweetness of the caramelised onion and the freshness of coriander leaves.
Halim is taken to a new level with a squeeze of lemon juice. Sounds tempting, right?
Halim is a special dish served in the iftar. However, there’s a debate whether it suits iftar or not. Here is a ‘yes - no’ debate for halim during iftar as this writer has reached a few likers and dislikers.
Raisha Rajib, a 3rd-year student of Pharmacy at BRAC University loves halim and is happy to include halim in her iftar.
“Well, my first and foremost reason for liking halim is it is a tasty dish. As it contains a variety of spices, it perfectly goes with my taste bud.”
“It is a delicious blend of various types of items like different types of lentils and meat. It goes well with other menus in iftar,” said Raisha.
She explained her reason for liking halim because it is enriched with protein. She shared, “Another reason for liking halim is it goes well with my diet. I like to eat protein enriched food as those are better for my health. And halim is a great source of protein. I can get my required protein only by eating a bowl of halim.”
Halim is a wholesome meal that is well capable of fulfilling your nutrients requirements with only a bowl of it.
However, Mohammad Saiful Islam, a journalism graduate from Dhaka University who is currently working with a National English daily, thinks halim is not suitable for iftar.
He countered Raisha’s logic by saying, “For taste bud, I have nothing to say because it differs from person to person. Yet, when each and every doctor's advice firmly put a full stop to extra spice or spicy foods, I don't find any logical explanation for rallying behind taste only.”
On a scarier note, Saiful added, “I personally wouldn't like to develop an ulcer by eating too spicy food with an empty stomach during iftar.”
Saiful’s argument seems logical as after fasting for a long time, spicy food can create health issues.
Saiful also butchered the concept of protein enrichment by saying, “No doubt you need lots of protein on your iftar menu to compensate for the energy loss. However, there are thousands of protein options much healthier than halim. I don't see any reason for not finding proper protein options.”
The problem with halim is, according to Saiful, “If you cook your halim with less spice, it might be a bit more healthy but won't satisfy your taste bud. See the problem? You can't take too much spice on an empty stomach, and if you use less spice, you don't like it anymore!”
He also shared his personal opinion regarding the reason disliking halim in the iftaar and stated a big ‘No’ to halim.
“My personal opinion is simple - in iftar, all I want is something that cools and dehydrates me. Halim has a lot of liquid but it comes with a lot of spice as well.”
“I personally like peppery hot halim that makes me cry. However, I don't want to cry during iftar, I want something cooler that soothes my dried soul. Halim is not that, no.”
The writer talked to a middle-aged real-estate businessman, Mr Sk. Zakir Hossain, who do not like halim in his iftar and dislikes it on other occasions as well.
He totally agreed with Saiful and said, “It develops acidity if I eat halim on empty stomach and causes me heartburn.”
He refuted the protein logic as it feels like a heavy meal to him.
“Halim consists of various kinds of lentils and red meat, which in terms make it protein-rich. But I personally feel so bloated after having it. It makes me feel uncomfortable for a long time after iftar.”
The writer, from her personal experience, can vouch for Mr Zakir, as after having a bowl of Halim, you can't eat anything else at iftar. The stomach becomes heavier and you will not feel hunger for a long time.
"It is more like thick daal that we have in our home on a regular basis. They are both similar to me. The only difference is more spices and some meat. So I wouldn’t eat ‘ekbati daal’ for a few pieces of meat,” said Mr Zakir laughing.
Tasmim Farhana Anika is a private university student who likes halim because she loves the combination of meat and lentils.
While defending the reason Saiful gave, she gave a strong counterargument.
“To refute the concern of keeping yourself hydrated, first of all, there are other means as well to avoid dehydration while fasting. For instance, we can have different kinds of sherbet, juices, lots of water, coconut water, etc.”
“It is true that halim contains lots of spices, but there is one thing, healthy food cannot satisfy our soul always. Also, halim usually is not being taken on a regular basis. Most of the time it is taken once a week,” added Tasmim.
So she doesn’t think that one bowl of halim once a week could be that much harmful for our body.
While disproving the reasoning of Mr Zakir, she shared her view and said, “It is true that we have daal in our daily diet but halim is not only about the ‘daal and mangsho.’ It is also about many other aromatic spices which enhance the fragrance and taste of this dish.”
“As I said before, I like the fusion of ‘daal and beef.’ Also, halim itself is a heavy dish because it is packed with various nutrients and proteins. So having even a small quantity of halim is enough to fill up your tummy,” Tasmim explained her reasons to defend halim against all odds!
“Besides, halim can be prepared easily with the help of a ready mix. As I'm not fond of cooking, I tend to look for shortcuts so that I don’t have to prepare too many dishes at a time.”
So Halim seems a good choice for her since she can get rid of cooking with one dish and concentrate on religious activities during Ramadan.
The debate about whether or not to have halim in the iftar is a never-ending one. When it comes to food, everyone has their own preferences and opinions. So the debate can continue as long as it is healthy.