Indian Thali: Riot of Flavors and Tastes

 It is like putting the sample of the whole menu in one place

If you are an Indian, you probably know the different Indian Thalis found across the geography of India. If you are a visitor, you need to know that there is no single Indian Thali. Each region of India has its own version of Thali.

Some of the items like Rice or Pickle are found in almost all Indian Thalis. However, there is something unique about each Thali, some preparation that makes it belong to a particular region in India.

What is an Indian Thali?

Well, Thali is actually the large circular plate raised around the circumference on which food is served. Food is served on a plate and in small bowls called Katoris. It is like putting the sample of the whole menu in one place, in one go.

Indian Thali is supposed to have the 6 tastes that Ayurveda prescribes. The six tastes are:

  • Salt
  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Spicy
  • Astringent

A perfect Indian Thali is the one that balances these six tastes. It is not just the tastes, but the colors are also balanced. The Thali, when served, is as colorful as India is as a country. In short, a Thali appeals to all your five senses.

So, let’s take a tour around India with the Indian Thali.

Rajasthani Thali

It comes with the flavors of the desert that are dry and rich at the same time. Richness comes from oodles of desi ghee used. Some unique dishes to try in a Rajasthani Thali are:

  • Dal Bati Churma – a true blue desert food
  • Gatte ki Subzi – gram flour is used to make curry
  • Ker Sangri – You get both Sabzi and pickle from Ker Sangri
  • Bajre ki Roti – Roti made of Bajra eaten with a layer of Desi Ghee
  • Lahsun ki Chutney – Garlic Chutney
  • Khichdi – A multi-grain khichadi with Wheat, Millet, and Sorghum
  • Roasted Papad
  • Ghevar – a traditional Rajasthani sweet dish, usually available in the monsoon season

Bengali Vegetarian Thali

There is no dearth of flavors or options for vegetarians in Bengal. Bengalis like to add a bit of sweetness to their food, so everything, except maybe rice has a tinge of sweetness in it.

What makes a Bengali Thali is:

  • Mishto Doi – Sweet set curd is the most celebrated part of the Bengali meal
  • Baingan Bhaja –Aubergine fries
  • Aaloo Posto – Potato cooked with poppy seeds, a combination you find only in Bengal
  • Luchi – It is like a small-sized Poori, but made with Maida, and tastes a bit different
  • Rasgulla or Roshogulla – No Bengali Thali is complete without this favorite sweet of Kolkata
  • Daal, seasonal vegetables cooked in mustard oil, and rice complete the menu

Gujarati Kathiawadi Thali

Just like Indian meals, there are various variants of a Gujarati Thali. Kathiawadi Thali is particularly famous. Like Bengali Thali, the Gujarati one is also quite sweet. It is incidental that the east and west of India have a similar fetish for sweets. However, in Gujarat, you find a generous flavor of garlic. Many dishes will have a pre-fix Lehsunia, which means ample garlic.

  • Tamatar Shev ki Sabji – It defines a Gujarati Thali
  • Papad ki Subji
  • Undhiyo – a version of Khichadi
  • Kadhi
  • Dhokla or Khandvi shine with their bright yellow color
  • Small sized Rotis or Bhakris made of Bajra accompany the meal
  • Desi Ghee and Jaggery are used to give a finishing touch to the Gujarati Kathiawadi Thali

Punjabi Thali

It has limited menu options, but Punjabi Thali has:

  • Sarson ka Saag with a thick layer of desi ghee floating on it
  • Freshly made Makki ki Roti with a layer of what else, desi ghee
  • Raddish or Mooli dipped in vinegar or maybe lime juice
  • A bit of raw onion
  • Mango Pickle
  • Chunks of jaggery or Gud to end the meal

Simple thali but the taste would linger on your tongue for a long time to come.

Andhra Thali – Spiciest Indian Thali

The Andhra cuisine stands as the spiciest cuisine in India. A layer of red from the red hot Guntur Chilles always floats on its dishes, especially the sambhar and rasam. A pile of shining white rice comes with bright curries. The things that make an Andhra Thali are:

  • Parripu Podis – Dry lentil-based chutney powders
  • Gongura – this is sour leave that you get only in Andhra
  • Baingan Subzi
  • Avakai – An Andhra-style mango pickle, true to the cuisine it is spicy.

If you are not used to spices like me, take a big bowl of curd to balance the spice level.

Kashmiri Thali

A vegetarian Kashmiri Thali has to be custom-made on order in most of Kashmir. The unique elements include:

  • Nadru or the Lotus stem crisps – They can also come in the form of stuffed Kebabs
  • Kashmiri Dum Aaloo – A defining element of Kashmiri cuisine
  • Haak – lightly sautéed fresh greens that have a tinge of the bitter taste
  • Walnut Chutney
  • Kashmiri Roti – Tandoori roti is usually infused with spices
  • Phirni – threadlike noodles cooked in milk with nuts on top is a soothing sweet dish
  • Raita with Gheeya or bottle gourd is popular in Kashmir
  • Kahwah –finish it with a cup of saffron-infused, nut-loaded Kashmiri Kahwah

Maharashtra Thali

Maharashtra again is a big state. Different variants of Maharashtrian Thali are available in different parts of the state. In a generic thali, apart from Dal, Rice, Roti, and seasonal vegetables, you can expect the following:

  • Sabudana Wada comes as a starter for me
  • Varan Bhat – Maharashtrian version of Khichdi
  • Amti or the Chana Daal, the Maharashtrian style
  • Puran Poli – a favorite Maharashtrian mild sweet dish
  • Shrikhand

(Courtesy: India Tales)

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