The World On A Plate


India – Thali


I defy anyone to go to India and not get totally addicted to thalis. The thing that always really blows me away is that they’re one of those dishes which is meat-free but it would never occur to you to notice as there’s so much flavour going on.

Thalis are traditionally the choice of sad bachelors who don’t have wives to make them the lunch-time tiffin tin filled with delicacies made with love. Tiffin-wallahs ferry the containers from homes to offices every day and it’s great to watch them racing through Mumbai with them loaded on their heads.

Anyway, standard procedure for thali is this. You go in to some grubby-looking hole in the wall place filled to bursting with young men scarfing down as much food as possible. Almost as soon as you sit down the thali tray arrives – five or so different curries, pickles and yoghurt choices arranged in little pots around a great mound of rice. Chapatti is also a staple, and if you’re in a slightly upmarket place you might also get a naan bread.

Delve in with your fingers, and as soon as you run out of any of the little pots it is instantly refilled by a waiter. The rice and bread is finite but everything else is all you can eat so fill fill fill.

Something about all those different flavours prompts you to eat more than you ever thought possible, and as the price is rarely more than $4 it’s probably the best value all-you-can-eat in the world.

You find thalis literally everywhere in India, but my best one was on the same street as Leopalds in Mumbai, heading west.

posted under India

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