What Is the Thali Way of Eating Indian Food?

Learn about this unique style of dining

Thali

If you're unsure what's meant by the term "Thali food," get a better understanding of this uniquely Indian style of eating with this review. Grasp the origins of the term and examples.

What Does Thali Mean?

Simply put, Thali is a Hindi word that means "a large plate." In recent years, the meaning of the term has expanded, however. It has also become the commonly used expression for a style of eating in India.

With that in mind, Thali the meal refers to many different dishes (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian), served in small bowls called (Katori in Hindi) arranged on a Thali, or a platter. In short, Thali is an entire meal on a single, huge plate! 

A flatbread, rice, pickle, salad, and dessert are also included, as is bread (like chapatis). Thali is often a set meal, so you don’t get to choose the food items featured on the platter. But more often, especially in really good Indian restaurants, it is "all you can eat" with the waiters serving you continuously until you are full. Imagine a more luxurious take on the American style buffet, and you have Thali! 

Designing Your Own Thali

To mix things up, you can make use of one at a dinner party or another event. If you're interested, review the suggestions for Thali plates below. The ideas are just as good served in a Thali or without it. Note how the plates are arranged by theme, such as meat, fish or vegetarian.

  • If you want a healthier Thali or simply enjoy fish, consider a fish Thali. This platter can include fish curry, fish cutlets, cabbage foogath, poppadums, pickle, and salad. Add some Shahi Anjir ice cream for dessert! Once again, if you're already familiar with Indian, go ahead and design your own plate. If your dinner party isn't large, consider asking your guests for examples of foods they'd like to be included on the Thali. 
  • If you don't eat chicken or fish, a vegetarian Thali is your go-to platter. This plate can include naan bread, Malai Kofta, Shahi Daal, Baingan Ka Bharta, pickle, and salad. To top off this delicious and healthful Thali, serve Gulab Jamun for dessert! Your guests will love this platter, particularly if they're fellow vegetarians, which people of a variety of faiths in India are, most notably practitioners of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.  

Depending on how big your dinner party is, you don't have to limit yourself to one Thali plate. You can have a feast with a variety of Thalis served.