South Indian style vegetarian thali or unavu served in a restaurant.
North Indian style vegetarian thali served in a restaurant.
Rajasthani style vegetarian thali served in a restaurant.
Gujarati style vegetarian thali served in a restaurant.
Assamese style thali served in a restaurant.
Andhra style vegetarian thali served in a restaurant.
Karnataka style vegetarian thali served in a restaurant.
Bengali style thali served in a restaurant.
Nepalese style thali served in a restaurant.
Punjabi style vegetarian thali served in a restaurant.
Manipuri style thali (chakluk)

Thali (meaning "plate") is a round platter used to serve food in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Thali is also used to refer to an Indian-style meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter.


As noted by INTACH, the earliest evidence of use of continuity in cooking and food habits of India can be established by the existence of tandoor (cooking oven), thali, lotas and chakla-belan for making chapatis found in excavations at Indus Valley Civilization site of Kalibangan (3500 BCE – 2500 BCE).[1]

It is noted that in the early days, Thali's were only reserved for Royalty. Emperors would feast on the bountiful meal that was offered to them by the villagers and servants. Thali's were known as the “rich mans” food and only the elite and rich would feast.

Thali meal[edit]

Thali refers to the metal plate that a thali meal may be served on. Thali is popular in Punjab[2] , Uttar Pradesh and other states in North India. The idea behind a Thali is to offer all the 6 different flavours of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one single plate (technically the last two are actually forms of chemesthesis rather than true flavours). According to Indian food custom, a proper meal should be a perfect balance of all these 6 flavours. Restaurants typically offer a choice of vegetarian or meat-based thalis. Vegetarian thalis are very typical and commonplace in Tamil Nadu canteens (and South India and Southeast Asia in general), and are a popular lunch choice.

Dishes served in a Thali vary from region to region in the Indian subcontinent and are usually served in small bowls, called katori in India. These 'katoris' are placed along the edge of the round tray – the actual thali: sometimes a steel tray with multiple compartments is used. Typical dishes include rice, dal, vegetables, roti, papad, dahi (yogurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off.[3] Rice or Roti is the usual main dish which occupies the central portion of the Thali, while the side dishes like vegetable curries and other aforementioned delicacies are lined circularly along the round Thali. Depending on the restaurant or the region, the thali consists of delicacies native to that region. In general, a thali begins with different types of breads such as puris or chapatis (rotis) and different vegetarian specialities (curries). However, in South India and Southeast Asia, rice is the only staple served with thalis. Thalis are sometimes referred to by the regional characteristic of the dishes they contain. For example, one may encounter Nepalese thali, Rajasthani thali, Gujarati thali and Maharashtrian thali. In many parts of India and Nepal, the bread and the rice portions are not served together in the thali. Typically, the bread is offered first with rice being served afterwards, often in a separate bowl or dish.

Today, many restaurants around the world offer Thali dishes as an easy way to feast upon your meal that has multiple dishes. They are made of stainless steel and some have intricate designs along the edges. There is no official date that Thali was invented/created.

Unlimited thali[edit]

Unlimited thalis are those that come with limitless refills.[4][5] Kunal Vijaykar considers an unlimited thali as quintessentially Indian, not just for variety or limitlessness, but because it is true to Indian tradition.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "INTACH Haryana newsletter", INTACH, page 34.
  2. ^ Mayhew, B.; Bindloss, J.; Armington, S. (2006). Nepal. Ediz. Inglese. Country Guides (in Turkish). Lonely Planet. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-74059-699-2. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Decording Indian Cuisine", in Spicy Thali blog, 26 June 2011. (Entry. Retrieved 3 June 2012)
  4. ^ Desai, Anjali H. (2007). India Guide Gujarat. India Guide Publications.
  5. ^ Planet, Lonely; Singh, Sarina; Benanav, Michael; Blasi, Abigail; Clammer, Paul; Elliott, Mark; Harding, Paul; Mahapatra, Anirban; Noble, John (1 September 2015). Lonely Planet India. Lonely Planet.
  6. ^ "Kunal Vijayakar picks the best places to savour an unlimited thali in Mumbai". 21 April 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017.

Further reading[edit]