Achaar (pickle) is believed to help with digestion
A delicate blend of aromatic spices, sweet and savoury delights and irresistible flavours can be found in Indian thalis.
The Indian term ‘thali’ refers to a round plate. Primarily this plate is made from steel.
On top of this plate, katoris are used which is the Indian term for a bowl. Depending on how many dishes are served there is one katori used per dish.
The idea to eat from a thali is highly popular in India, but this style of eating is a global way to enjoy food. Other countries that eat in the same way include Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore.
Typically a non-vegetarian thali consists of a meat dish, chicken dish, fish curry, daal (curry made from lentils), raita, jeera rice/pilau/biryani, achaar (pickle) and a dessert to finish.
For vegetarian people, paneer is used as the main dish when presented in a thali. Alongside there will often be more curries made with either peas or potatoes.
A must-have in this Indian dish is achaar (pickle), regardless of which region you may be from. Indians believe this helps with digestion.
DESIblitz narrows down the top regions of India where the method of choice for eating is a thali.
Punjabi food is of course from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. Punjabi cuisine is well-known for its use of rich and buttery flavours that are highly indulgent.
In this thali, we can see the Punjabi influence in the butter chicken, a truly delectable dish.
For the dessert element of the thali, the gulab jamun is perfect. The traditional popular sweet treat is made with milk powder and fried. It’s India’s answer to the American doughnut and it’s delicious.
A non-veg thali from the Punjabi region will typically include:
- Butter chicken
- Karahi ghost
- Jeera rice
- Red chilli pickle
- Gulab jamun for dessert
A vegetarian Thali in Punjab uses:
- Chole (chickpea curry)
- Paneer masala
- Daal makhni
- Gulab jamun
So, it doesn’t matter whether you need a bit of meat on your plate or you want to stick with veg, a Punjabi Thali can be just as delicious with or without meat.
Gujarat is primarily a vegetarian state due to the influence of Jain vegetarianism. Therefore, the dishes in this thali are vegetarian. Whilst there are some communities that include seafood, chicken and goat as part of their dishes.
Gujarati cuisine can vary greatly in heat and flavour. This is mainly due to personal taste as well as regional differences.
In general, a Gujarati Thali consists of:
- Daal (moong daal is a popular choice in Gujrat as well as chana daal)
- Sabzi (dry vegetable curry)
- 2 or more types of kadhi (curry which has a thick batter made from chickpea flour)
- Papad or roti on the side along with rice and to finish some form of chutney
- Dhokla for dessert
If there is nothing sweet, Gujrati’s prefer to have gur, which is date molasses.
Bengali cuisine is well-known for it’s subtle, yet sometimes fiery, flavours. Fish, vegetables and rice are among the staple dishes that Bengali cuisine enjoys. In this thali, we see their staple ingredient fish used in the maach.
It has also grown to become well known for its desserts, hence why they enjoy dhoi with their thali. This sweet and cooling dish is the perfect accompaniment for the curries that the thali features.
A Bengali Thali consists of:
- Vegetable curry
- Maach (fish dish)
- Murghi (chicken curry)
- Rice as accompaniment
- Dhoi for dessert which is a sweet yoghurt.
Although the majority of the population in Rajasthan are vegetarian, the non-vegetarians like to enjoy spicy laal mach, which is a fish dish eaten by the Mughals.
To accompany all these dishes are types of pilaus or rice which are used along with raita and chutney. For desserts, Rajasthani people like to enjoy gajar ka halwa (which is a dessert made from carrot).
A Rajasthani Thali is known to be one of the royal thalis that people enjoy. It’s composed of mouthwatering delicacies made with the finest ingredients.
- Dal bati churma (deep fried bread), which any Rajasthani cuisine is incomplete without.
- Roti made with bajra or makka which is a type of flour
- Saag (spinach curry)
South Indian (Tamil) Thali
In South India, the palette is made from five states Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The people of Tamil Nadu are predominately vegetarians, and a wide range of their food is made from pulses and rice.
A lot of vegetables are used in their cooking but they are cooking in many different variations to allow new flavours to enter the palette.
Some of the essential dishes that are found in this part of India’s cuisine include rasam, samba and dosa – which is a light pancake made from fermented batter, studded with a spiced potato mixture.
In a South Indian Thali you will find:
- Rasam (soup)
- Medu Vada
- Sambar (lentil/vegetable based soup made from a tamarind sauce)
- Vegetable curry
Kashmir is the northernmost region of India. The cuisine of this region is focused heavily on meat and rice as the two basic components of their diets.
Thalis are often used in Kashmiri culture and many of their dishes purposely contain plenty of meat. To finish the feast, they serve up the wonderfully creamy, rose-flavoured phirni.
The Kashmiri Thali includes:
- Rajma Risemise
- Kebab Nadir Shahi (lotus root stuffed with aam papad)
- Tabak Maaz (fried lamb ribs)
- Gosht Yakhani
- Kashmiri Dum Aloo
- Khatte Baingan
- Kashmiri Pulao
- Al Raita (bottle gourd in yoghurt)
- Rose flavoured phirni
Food from the Indian region of Maharashtra can be identified by its slightly spicy flavours. They are known both for their mild and spicy dishes.
Distinctively Maharashtrian dishes include the Indian sweet ukdiche modak, as well as aluchi patal bhaji and thalipeeth. Their spectacular thalis showcase all of the delicious staples that the state has to offer.
A Maharashtrian Thali might include:
- Bhakri roti
- Bharli Vangi (stuffed brinjal)
- Pitla (thick chickpea flour curry)
- Amti (spicy and tangy toor lentil)
- Pandhra Rassa (chicken in white gravy)
- Mutton Kolhapuri (fiery mutton gravy)
- Sabudana Vada
- Basundi (sweetened dense milk dessert)
The concept of thalis across South Asia is very similar but in different regions of India the dishes they use vary. Also, depending on whether you eat vegetarian or non-vegetarian food the items, your thali will vary accordingly.
We hope we’ve shown you the many different dishes and food items that can be incorporated into a thali. Whether you are a devoted vegetarian or someone who loves their meat, there’s a thali that you’ll love.
Most of all, we love that using a thali means you can mix dessert with your main. Sweet and savoury always work well together.