Google defines a Thali as “a set meal at an Indian restaurant.” I remember having a Chinese set meal once on a cruise ship from Singapore, but never gave much thought to its equivalent back home.
The Thali has rice served with a variety of side dishes; the number of sides will vary with the cost. I normally avoid ordering a Thali for two main reasons – first, the sheer variety is overwhelming, I am used to two or three side dishes; second, I will not be able to finish all the food by myself, the quantity is always too much.
The Thali has simple side dishes akin to the ones we normally cook at home. It is the variety of dishes that is enticing; you get to taste a wide variety of curries in small quantities. When I have been eating outside food for quite sometime, do not want anything fancy and yearn for some familiar comfort, I venture the Thali route.
First is one of the best Thali I have had – its the Beef Thali from Curry Leaf restaurant in Kochi, Kerala. There are 9 side dishes served with rice and pappadam – the sides included beef curry, chicken fry, sambar, rasam, avial, beetroot, curd, pickle and a sweet dish made of semolina 😋
The semolina sweet had raisins and cashew and was super yummy !!
We also tried the Fish Thali at a restaurant called Cheenavala at Kochi, Kerala. They have a Full Fish Thali and a Half Fish Thali. The number of sides in the Full Fish Thali is 13, including fish steamed in a banana leaf. The dessert includes a vermicelli payasam and a fruit salad. Not to forget the 4 types of fish preparation excluding the fish pickle. You have to have a good appetite to do justice to this big a meal !!
The Half Fish Thali is more manageable.
We also tried a Vegetarian Thali in Bangalore at a restaurant called Panchavati Gaurav at Garuda Mall. It’s a typical Rajasthani/ Gujarati veg meal, starting with phulka. The sheer number of the accompanying veg dishes will leave you speechless. The sweet dish served this time was gulab jamun. But we enjoy non-vegetarian food more, so we just consider this as an offbeat experiment; only to have a taste of the north Indian food – we miss the non-veg fare !!
The Thali is common man’s food, nothing fancy in the preparation or presentation and an easy way to sample the local fare at any place.
Next time, try a Thali; you will either love it or hate it. But do try it !!