Thalis of India - Regional Culinary Delights Served on a Platter
Image Credit: Different states of India have their own distinct thali

India has many distinct regional cuisines having different ingredients, cooking methods, and tastes. If such a diverse culinary landscape has a common factor, it’s the indigenous concept of serving food on a ‘Thali’.

Thali is an elaborate meal comprising different courses served on a singular plate. From starters to salads, chutneys, dals, curries, rice, regional specialities, bread, accompaniments, and desserts, all find their rightful place on a traditional Indian Thali. Often Thalis are served on special occasions, weddings, or festivals, served on a Banana Leaf or a Pattal (Plate made out of Leaves).

Thali is not merely a symbol of a royal meal but also a wholesome meal at a reasonable cost to travellers. While travelling across the country, you will find many small dhabas and food joints near bus stands, railway stations, or tourist destinations offering multi-dish meals to tourists, often at a price of less than 100 rupees per plate. Thali is a beautiful way of consuming a balanced diet, including different sets of vegetables in smaller portions, I find Thali a perfect choice for a solo traveller exploring cuisines across India, as it offers many dishes at once without spending a fortune. It is like a buffet served on a plate.

In Amritsar, get a taste of authentic Punjabi cuisine at the famous ‘Kesar da Dhaba’. A thali at this iconic food joint includes Punjab’s much-loved ‘Tadke wali Maa ki Dal’, ‘Chole’, and ‘Palak Paneer; One can choose to opt for ‘Rajma’ or a ‘shahi paneer’. Served with ghee-laden ‘Lacchedaar Parathas’, eating a Thali at this Punjabi Dhaba would be a memorable experience. At the dhabas across the Grand Trunk Road, which passes through the agriculturally rich state of Punjab, one can enjoy ‘Sarson Ka Saag’, with ‘Makki ki Roti’, served along with home-churned white butter and jaggery. A Thali at such dhabas may include a ‘Dal’, ‘Baingan Ka Bharta’, and ‘tandoori parathas’; onion and green chillies are a regular feature; a thali experience at a Punjabi dhaba would be incomplete without a glass of Lassi’ or’ Mattha’ (Buttermilk).

At Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple, the Thali meal is served to more than 50,000 devotees of all castes, creeds, and socio-economic statuses. Thali meal at the Langar includes ‘Dal’, Vegetables, ‘Chapati’, a salad, and a dessert. Although the meal is not an elaborate affair, langar offers unlimited food to the devotees, and the taste of the langar cooked at gurudwaras is unparalleled for the love and devotion it is prepared with.

Goan Thali

Bengal, one of the culinary rich states of eastern India, carries delectable flavours and dishes ranging from vegetables like ‘Begun bhaja’, ‘aloo bhaja’, ‘Kosha Mangsho’, ‘Mutton Kaliya’, ‘Macher Jhol’, ‘Chingri Malai’, ‘Alur Dum’, ‘Shukto’, ‘Aloo Poshto’ etc. to win the heart of any food lover. A Bengali Thali is incomplete without the famed Bengali Mishti; try a ‘roshagulla’ or ‘Mishti Doi’ to end an elaborate Bengali cuisine affair on a sweet note.

In Madhya Pradesh, ‘Dal Bafla Thali’, the tribal cuisine of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, A Kumaoni or Garhwali Thali of Uttarkhand, the temple food served in Braj (Uttarpradesh), or the Meal at Annapurna temple of Varanasi, are some of the examples of simple yet delicious cuisines of India. The taste of ‘Dalma’ in an Oriya Thali, or the ‘Gongura Pappu’ of Andhra Pradesh, the dairy-rich cuisine of Haryana, or the tribal cuisines of Northeast Indian states, all can be experienced via means of simple and affordable thali meals as you travel across Indian exploring the myriad flavours of its various cuisines. Be it the festivals celebrated in India, visits to religious places, or weddings in different communities living in India, a Thali meal is an ideal experience of the many flavours and cultures thriving in our Country. So, Keep Exploring!