11 Indian thalis that you must try at least once in your lifetime

Indian thalis are timeless. The diversity of culture ensures a variety that can satiate the palate of one and all without fail

Gita HariUpdated: Saturday, December 03, 2022, 08:47 PM IST

Just like fashion, modern cooking thrives on constant innovations in preparations and presentation while traditional cuisine is eternal and unique to the geographical region it belongs to. Due to its arid topography, Rajasthani thali uses milk-based ingredients; platter from Punjab, the land of plenty, consists of mustard greens, bread basket and meat with loads of butter and ghee, while plantain-leaves from the South are dominated by tamarind and coconut-based gravies and the staple rice. The hilly terrains of the Western ghats put forth legumes, peanuts and millets just as the extreme cold northern regions of J&K are known for lamb delicacies, lotus stem and curries with a smattering of dryfruits and saffron.

Another significant one is the nutritious vrat thali for devout Hindus who observe a fast during festivities of the year. The thali never fails to satiate!


The dry state uses milk-based ingredients to cook up a storm. Ashish Maheshwari of Maharaja Bhog Thali restaurant reveals, “A welcome drink of chandan and kesar water with typical fare like ker sangri, (spicy) dal (hard) baati (sweet) churma, gatte ki sabzi of besan dump-lings in spicy curd gravy, kadhi, panchamael (five different lentils) dal, missi/ bajra/jowar rotis, khichdi, spiced buttermilk, jalebi, halwa, shrikand are part of Rajasthani thali.”


The fiery cuisine of Chettiars from Tamil Nadu includes, besides veg curries like cabbage poriyal, urulai roast and rice dishes, non-vegetarian preparations using freshly ground spices and sun-dried meat. “Spicy chicken curry, mutton biryani, Chettinad egg masala, meen (fish) kuzhambu, comprise the thali. Payasam and kozhukattai (modak) are part of the sweets. Buttermilk, appalams, pickles form the accompaniments,” says Masterchef Bala.


The meticulous display of gleaming cups cannot be imagined without its staples. Gautam Purohit, Owner of the legendary Shree Thaker Bhojanalay enlightens, “It has an evergreen appeal. Farsans-ghughras, khandvi, dhoklas, kichu or panki, kathol (braised pulses), shaak or subzis, sambhariya (stuffed veggies), katti-meethi dal, the seasonal undhiyo, rotla, biscuit roti, thepla, khichdi and chaas alongwith mithais like jalebis, basundi or mungdal halwa and aamras are what make a Gujarati thali so popular.”


It’s all about a rich fare comprising sarson ka saag, makhnis, rajma, patiala lassi, and more. “Delicious and visually impressive, Punjabi meal is incomplete without fried starters like paneer pakora or kachori, hara-bhara kebab, paneer bhurji or paneer tikka masala. Buttery-soft phulkas, makki di roti or Amritsari kulcha, dal fry, fragrant veg pulav, and gulab jamun lend a North Indian flavour. Kutchi Beer, which is chaas served in sterilised beer bottles perfectly complement the varied tastes of Punjabi food,” says Chef of K Bhagat Tarachand, which serves authentic Punjabi thalis across Mumbai.


The soul-satisfying sadhya on fresh banana leaves is heavenly. Master Chef Bala from South of Vindhyas of The Orchid Hotel observes, “Kerala thali comes with a variety of chips, pachadi, chamandis, avial (medley of veggeis in coconut gravy), thoran, kootu curry, sambar, rasam, uli theeyal (onion in masalas and tamarind gravy), mango curry, stew, lemon and coconut sevai (string-hoppers), appam, and Malabari paratha. A variety of payasams and pradhamans complete the sadhya.”


Pic: Varun Inamdar

More austere than other thalis, it is an energetic thali of sprouts and veggies, with a mix of non-veg items too like pandhra/ tambda rassa, Malvani fish fry, Kolhapuri mutton sukke, etc. Desserts like kharvas prepared with cow colostrum are hugely popular. Chef Varun Inamdar mentions, “Maharashtra’s ethnic culinary delights can be savoured in the form of kothimbir vadi, aluwadi, koshimbir (salad), thalipeeth (multigrain spiced flatbread), batata/ watana sukhi bhaji, bharleli wangi (stuffed eggplant), masale bhaat with khatache amti, bhakri, thup (buttermilk), ukadiche modak, shrikand or purampoli.”


Along with fresh veggies and saffron, traditional Kashmiri Pandit meal has rajma, dum aloo, nadier (lotus root) palak, sweet khameeri roti, and leafy haak dishes. Desserts are usually kesari kheer or the nutty shufta. Wazwan is a scrumptious medley of veg and non-veg. Rotis of nuts and saffron-flavoured bakharkhani or sheermal, paneer chaman, monj haak (knol kohl), Kashmiri pulao (pomegranate pearls, dryfruits and saffron) in fragrant basmati rice. Or mutton kebabs, rista (meatballs in red gravy), kokur, rogan josh, yakhni gosht make for a robust platter.


The territory of seafood, fish and rice offers Xitti Kodi or Goan fish curry, bangadyachi uddamethi (mackerel), ambot tik, prawn caldeen, balchao, vindaloo, xacuti, foogath and bebinca.

Lesser-known ones

Kannadiga oota: A medley of flavours incorporated from its vicinity states, its mainstay are kosambari, palya (veg side dish), gojju (veggies in tamarind gravy), akki roti (rice flatbread), padavalkay (snakegourd) masala, huli (broth of dals and veggies), chitranna (flavoured rice dish) and ranjaka (garlic-chilli chutney). Mysuru pak, holige or rava unde complete the thali.

Sindhi Sindhis mostly prefer fried and besan-based dishes. “It will invariably have sanna pakora (double fried besan fries), aloo tuk, Sindhi kadi where veggies are cooked in besan gravy and sai bhaji of fresh veggies, spinach and dal, phulkas, rice, aloo rasswala, bhindi masala, sev barfi or gulab jamun served with sherbet,” enlightens Sannat Ahuja, owner of Juss by Sindhful restaurant.

Pic: Sindhful

Bengali: The rice and fish populace enjoys begun bhaja (eggplant fritters), shukto (sweet-spicy veggies), cholar dal, kosha mangsho (mutton in thick gravy), traditional macher jhol, patol bhaja, mango/papaya chutneys, mishti doi and payesh for a sweet finale.

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