Whichever corner of the world I may be in, the food that actually satiates my taste-buds and my soul is the Indian food. Nothing can ever be as good and flavourful for me as Indian vegetarian food, especially when it’s home cooked.
One of my favourite childhood memories is watching mom cook simple but yummy food and the family mealtimes. The fragrance of ‘Kadah Parshad’ (holy offering made with broken wheat, sugar and water) brings back so many happy memories.
A visit to India is incomplete without having tasted its finger-licking and flavour-packed food. An elaborate Indian thali meal brings to you the taste of India on a platter. In this post, let me introduce you to 15 such vegetarian Indian Thali meals that are sure to tempt you to dig in as soon as you get the chance.
Being a vegetarian, I feel that India is the best place for vegetarians to try an endless variety of affordable and lip smacking food.
The platter on which the meal is served to the guest is called ‘thali’ in many local languages. The word ‘thali’ literally means ‘plate’. Sometimes all the dishes are served together and presented and in some cases food is served in a particular order.
Depending upon the region and cuisine, Indian thalis usually contain one or more kinds of flatbread, some dishes made using lentils, dry or gravy based vegetables preparations, rice, snacks, pickles and something sweet.
Basically all the usual flavours- salty, sour, sweet and sometimes a hint of bitterness too.
The traditional way to enjoy an Indian meal is to sit down cross legged on the floor (on mats or low seating area) and eat using your hands.
It is believed that you feel better connected to the mother earth and to your food while eating this way.
I still like to eat this way as this is the most comfortable position for me to eat. I’d suggest you try this way, if you haven’t already, while relishing the Indian thalis.
Here is a list of 15 awesome mouthwatering thalis that I have curated just for you to tickle your taste-buds with.
1. Sindhi Thali
Sindhis have a very deep and strong relationship with their food.
Tridali daal (three kinds of lentils), Sindhi Kadhi (curry laden with vegetables), Katt wara Karela (stuffed bitter gourd), Bhee Patata (Lotus stem and potato curry), all these served with spiced up rice and Phulko (wheat flat bread) are sure to increase anyone’s appetite.
Accompaniments of Sannah pakora (gram flour fritters), Sai chutney (green chutney), Bazaran ji khatan ( pickled onion) and Paapad are sure to blow up the taste buds.
Matho (buttermilk with herbs and spices), served as a drink, makes digesting everything easy.
Last but not the least, the sweet dishes Sevai Kheer ( Vermicelli cooked in milk) and Baata jo Seero (broken wheat cooked in clarified butter) would do its magic to make this feast a memorable one.
2 Himachali Thali
Dhaam is the traditional festive meal of Himachal Pradesh which is served at religious functions, weddings, festivals etc.
My favourite preparation in this thali is ‘Patod’ which is made with colocasia leaves and gram flour. A paste made of gram flour and spices is applied on the leaves which are folded, tied, steamed and then fried.
Maani, a side dish made up of boiled raw mangoes, jaggery, salt and cumin gives the tangy taste. Yoghurt gravy known as Redu, Khatta (tangy black chickpea curry), rice, babru (a type of flatbread/roti) complete this platter.
Dessert comprises sweet rice made with jaggery and dry fruits.
3. Aalohir Exaj or Assamese Thali
An athentic Assamese meal would be served on an alloy metal plate.
The metal used in making these is called Ka(n)h in Assamese.
The food is served in a big plate and bowls, just like most of the Indian meals. Khar, a curry made with lentils, raw papaya and powdered dry banana skin is what a traditional Assamese meal begins with.
Poitabhat (rice that is soaked overnight), Pitika (dish made with mashed vegetables), shaak bhaji (green leafy vegetables), lusi, bor (fritters) and pickles. Narikolor laru(coconut laddoo) or rice payas is served at the end as a sweet dish.
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4. Thali from Bengal
The staple food of Bengalis is mainly fish and rice. But that doesn’t mean there is any dearth of vegetarian dishes.
A complete Bengali thali has to have a few vegetarian preparations too. Mustard oil and panch phoran (blend of five spices- mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds) are very important in Bengali cooking.
Poppadams, Luchi (deep fried bread), Uchche Bhaja (sliced and stir fried bitter gourd), Bhaat (plain boiled rice), Begun Bhaja (sliced, batter coated, fried eggplant), Doi Begun, Shaag Bhaja (stir fried leafy greens) are the preparations that usually form a part of the Bengali vegetarian thali.
Desserts would be everyone’s favourite Rosogulla or Mishti Doi,.
5. Goan Thali
The Goan platter showcases the influence of Portugeuse and Konkan cuisine in its food. Seafood, coconut milk and rice are the main ingredients used in the Goan cuisine.
An authentic traditional Goan thali usually contains one or more non-vegetarian dishes but a vegetarian alternative can be found.
The simple but famous Daali thoy (lentil curry) is what the Goan meals start with.
Rice Bhakri (rice flour flatbread), Sol Kadhi/Kokum curry (can be served as a side dish or as a drink), Vegetable Vindaloo (vegetables based spiced curry), Muga Gathi (sprouted green gram curry) come together to complete a vegetarian Goan thali.
Banana Halwa (sweet dish made using ripe banana, sugar and clarified butter) is all one needs to finish off this feast.
6. Thali from Andhra
Andhra Pradesh is also known as the rice bowl of India as rice is the staple food of the region.
I had the chance to try authentic homemade Andhra thali during my visit to Visakhapatnam.
Given a chance to choose, I would always opt for a homemade traditional meal rather than trying its commercialised version at a restaurant or hotel.
Traditional Andhra Thali is served on a banana leaf.
Hot rice with ghee and Mudda Pappu (lentils), Vankaya Kothimara Kaaram (brinjal dish), Dondakayya Vepudu (ivy gourd dish). Charu (a variation of rasam), Gongura Pachadi (a preparation of Roselle leaves) and mango pickle are also served.
One may find it to be a little more spicier than usual Indian food. The meal ends on a sweet note with Rava Laddoo or Bandhar Laddoo.
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7. Bhojpuri Thali
Bhojpuri thali brings to you the taste of Bihar.
A typical Bhojpuri thali includes Litti Chokha (ball shaped bread and vegetable preparation), Bharbhara (green gram fritters), dahi chura (yoghurt with rice flakes), Sattu ka parantha, Kadhi Bari (gram flour and curd based gravy with gram flour dumplings), Kaale chane (bengal gram curry) and Gurma (raw mango sweetdish).
Sattu may also be served as a drink and last but not the least very savoury Baalushahi (sweetmeat).
8. Rajasthani Thali
A complete Rajasthani thali is a royal experience that you must have.
What I love about this thali is the serving of a huge variety of dishes in good proportions. I have had the fortune of relishing Rajasthani thali both at home and a place famous for its thali.
The hospitality that Rajasthan is famous for is quite evident in its food and the way it is served. I would suggest you to have it at a home or places like Chokhi Dhani.
In many traditional dishes gram flour is used as the main ingredient. This is perhaps due to less availability of fresh vegetables in this hot and dry region during old times.
Daal (lentils), Baati (ball shaped bread), Choorma (sweet dish) rule this platter. But that’s not all. Along with this you have gatte ki sabzi (a curry made with chickpea flour), curry (made with curd and chickpea flour), raita (seasoned yoghurt), ker sangri (vegetable dish), missi roti (flatbread). To end this sumptuous meal you have mava kachori, imarti or malpua as dessert.
9. Punjabi Thali
Punjabi thali is as fun and flavourful as Punjabi people.
You better forget about your calorie intake when you are enjoying this one. Ghee/butter melting down on hot stuffed parantha or kulcha (a kind of flatbread) would make you mouth water.
Alternatively one may have Sarson ka Saag ( a dish made with mustard leaves) and makki ki roti (flatbread made using maize flour). Rajma Chawal (red kidney beans and rice), Kadhi Chawal (a combination of rice and curry made using curd and spices), Missi roti, Daal Makhani (blacklentil curry loaded with butter and cream) may also be served.
For desert there is hot gulab jamun and the meal ends with a glass full of lassi (buttermilk).
10. Haryanvi Thali
A Haryanvi Thali would let you know how Haryanvi people keep up their good health and physical strength.
Packed with carbohydrates, proteins and dairy products, this is a simple, delicious and wholesome meal.
Bajra ki roti, hara dhaniya chholiya (green chickpea), mixed daal (mixed lentils), seasonal sabzi (veggies and greens), bathua raita ( a side dish made with curd and Chenopodium album) make a Haryanvi Thali complete.
You would love the pinni (sweet balls usually made up of some flour, seeds like flax seeds, sesame seeds, dry fruits and ghee), pickle and a big glass of chhaas served (buttermilk) with it.
11. Karnataka Thali
Kannadiga Oota or Karnataka Thali contains a variety of flavours.
Rice, Sambhar, Vangi Bhat (a preparation of eggplant and rice), Akki roti (rice flatbread), Jolada roti (Sorghum flatbread), Hirakai palya (stir fried ridge gourd), gojju (vegetables cooked in tamarind juice), mirchi bhajji (chilly fritters), ranjaka (chilli garlic chutney) are served on a banana leaf traditionally.
Don’t worry, there is something for the sweet tooth too- Belgaum Kunda (sweet prepared with milk solids).
12. Kerala Thali
Traditional Kerala thali called ‘Sadya’ is served at festive occasions.
The best way to enjoy it is to eat using your hands.
It is an elaborate platter with many main and side dishes such as parippu (lentil curry), rice, sambar (curry made with lentils and different vegetables), kalan (sour gravy made with yoghurt, vegetables and coconut), rasam (a sour and spicy soupy dish made using tamarind, tomatoes and spices), thoran (chopped sauteed vegetables), Avial (vegetable curry), Pachadi (yoghurt based side dish).
The main and popular dessert in Kerala Sadya is Payasam. It could be made using coconut milk and jaggery or normal milk and sugar.
Upperi, pickles and pappadum are necessary items that are served in Kerala thali.
13. Maharashtrian Thali
Maharashtrian Thali is an array of various dishes including pulses, vegetables, salad, pickle and sweets. Polya (wheat flatbreads), Suki Bhaji (seasonal veggies), Paale Bhaji (leafy greens like spinach, amaranth, fenugreek etc), Usal (sprouts), Varan (Plain yellow lentils), Amti (lentils curry) Koshimbeer (salad), bhaat (plain boiled rice) and curd (dahi) are served in a traditional Maharashtrian thali.
Spiced buttermilk (Mathha) and dessert in the form of Puranpoli, Shrikhand or Jalebi compliment this elaborate feast.
14. Gujrati Thali (Kathiawadi Thali)
Gujaratis are famous for their love for food.
Such is their love for food that they like to carry home cooked food with them while traveling.
Who wouldn’t when there is so much that a Gujarati Thali brings to the table.
A little sweet and a little spicy is the flavour of Gujrati or Kathiawadi Thali. This one is also my favourite because it’s light on stomach and yet tasty.
Dhokla (sweet and sour cake made up of gram flour), Khakhra (flavourful Poppadam), Fafda (a crunchy gram flour snack) are usually served as snacks but often make a part of the thali too.
Undhiyo (khichdi), Sev tamatar ki sabzi, Papad ki sabzi, seasonal vegetables like Ringana Methi Nu Shak (eggplant cooked with fenugreek leaves), Bharela ringan (stuffed eggplant), Dahi Bhindi (Okra cooked in curd), Kadhi (yoghurt based gravy) Tindora Nu Shak ( Ivy gourd dish) make the main course.
Gol Papdi and Doodhpaak are served as desserts to leave you with that distinctly sweet flavour of Gujrati thali.
15. Kumaoni Thali
A Kumaoni thali brings with it the flavours of pahadi herbs and spices.
The dishes are simple but very nutritious.
Bhatt ki dal (black turtle beans curry), Paalak ka Kaapa (Spinach gravy), Rice, Aaloo ke gutke (stir fried potato wedges), Urad Vada (lentil fritters), Anardana chutney (Pomegranate sauce) and Sani hui mooli (a simple radish salad, garnished with coriander and lemon juice) are enough to tempt anyone.
Kumaoni cucumber raita (Side dish made of Yoghurt, cucumber, herbs and spices) is something that I totally love and often make it at home.
With the punch of mustard in it, it takes the Kumaoni thali to another level. End your meal with everyone’s favourite Kumaoni sweet- Baal Mithai (made using milk solids and cane sugar).
I remember how my mother used to keep uttering ‘God-praising’ words while she cooked food in the kitchen. She still expresses her gratitude towards God before starting her meals and also when she finishes.
Food is a lot more than just filling up your stomach with tasty items. Sometimes it is a symbol of love and hospitality, sometimes it is an offering to the almighty and sometimes it is a way to celebrate something together. In order to experience any or all of these, make sure to try these must- try Indian thalis.
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I have been living out of India for half a year now and what I miss the most besides my family is hands down, authentic Indian food. Even if I get most of the ingredients here and I am a decent cook , I still miss that taste.
Indian cuisine is famous all over the world for its flavor packed preparations.
In fact, it would be correct to say that India is so vast and diverse that every state or region in India has its own cuisine. Some dishes may be similar in many regions but the style of preparation and ingredients may vary.
If you would like to visit India and you need help to plan your India tour, feel free to email me for details at firstname.lastname@example.org