In Hyderabad, the historic city famous for biryani, haleem and several other mouthwatering dishes, the Islamic month of Muharram is the season for 'Dum-ke-Roat', a sweet baked round cookie, made of wheat flour, sooji, vegetable oils, sugar, honey, clarified butter and dry fruits, and available in many leading bakeries in the city.
Known for its unique gastronomic culture, Hyderabad late last year made it to UNESCO network of creative cities under the gastronomy category.
While the popular biryani and most of the other delicacies are available round the year, there are few which will be on the platter only on special occasions.
The holy month of Ramadan is the season of lip-smacking haleem and during Muharram, it is Dum-ke-Roat.
Like many other businesses, haleem too was hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown. As a precautionary measure, hotels across the city did not prepare the dish during the entire month.
Though the overall situation improved during the last three months, the business of Dum-ke-Roat has also taken a hit compared to previous years.
"The maximum sales of Dum-ke-Roat was from people who used to take it to the US, Australia, Gulf and other countries. As there are no international flights now, the business is down by 30-40 per cent," MA Majeed, owner of Pista House, said.
Majeed, whose Pista House popularised haleem during the last couple of decades, said they had also made some changes in the recipe of Dum-ke-Roat to make it popular among all sections of people. "We add more saffron, dry fruits, pure ghee, khoya, some rawa and other ingredients to act as immunity boosters," he said.
Syed Irfan of Subhan Bakery said while the suspension of international flights affected the overall sales of Dum-ke-Roat, there was no big impact on local customers.
"The situation has improved a lot this month. Things gradually improved since the lifting of lockdown and during the month, it is much better," Irfan said.
The sales volume at the popular bakery is estimated to be around 80 per cent of the pre-COVID times.
"People were very much scared earlier but they are now coming out and buying various confectionery items," he said.
The 70-year-old bakery is popular for a wide variety of cookies, especially Osmania biscuits and Dum-ke-Roat.
It is said that erstwhile Hyderabad state's last ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan once offered Roats to an 'Alam' (standard) during Muharram for the safety and well-being of his grandson, Mukarram Jah Bahadur. Following this, people started offering Roats at various 'Alams' installed during Muharram and this practice is still continuing.
Over the years, Dum-Ke-Roat became a delicacy during Muharram. Some families prefer to make them at home but a majority buys them from popular bakeries.
It is usually sold in one kg and half kg packs.
The increase in the cost of ingredients has made the bakeries and restaurants revise the price upwards by Rs 40 a kg. This year, the delicacy was priced between Rs 640 to Rs 700 per kg.