Indian thali is a cultural discovery on a plate. It is quintessential to explore local flavours. A Thali is a whole meal in itself; it packs in small portions of a multitude of dishes on one plate. You can take on a thali as you move from one region to another, each time you’ll be ushered in with a new platter, with its own extensive menu. That makes thali, where you have to eat a little bit of everything, the best way to explore any regional cuisine.

Indian Thalis are diverse and serve regional and seasonal food and showcase traditional and indigenous cooking techniques such as dum (steam), tadka (tempering), bhuno (fry), and dhunnaar (smoke seasoning), to name a few.

So, what is Thali?

The Hindi word thali means a plate, often made of steel, on which food is served. But thali also means a specific style of food being served in restaurants. When you order thali, you’ll be served in a neatly arranged plate (yes, it’s also called thali) which has multiple bowls (known as katoris in Hindi) filled with food.

Thali at Rayalaseema Ruchulu

The grandeur of thali can also be related to historical signs of prosperity. The unique silverware of thali consists of a round, plated metal plate usually made of steel with a minimum of five to six matching katoris (bowls) and a drinking glass. Steel thalis are for regular use in homes and restaurants. Matching silverware brimming with colourful and carefully arranged, steaming food makes thali highly photogenic.

Thali is a full meal served on a single plate. Characterized by an eye-popping variety and an overwhelming quantity, thali contains 10 to 15 dishes (including rice and bread): don’t even think about ordering thali until you have a full appetite! While individual components of thali are prepared daily at home, the total immersion in its entire splendour is reserved for festivals, days of religious significance, or ceremonies and social functions. Nowadays you’re more likely to find thali in a restaurant than someone’s house. If you are looking to explore Rayalaseema Cuisine – Rayalseema Ruchulu has the best non-veg thali and best veg thali in Hyderabad.

A typical thali in Hyderabad is served on a banana leaf. The meal begins with a liberal dose of hot ghee served on piping hot rice along with dal Pappu (lentil). This is followed by charu ( a version of rasam), avakaya (mango pickle), paruppu podi (powdered lentil with spices), vankaya kothimeera karam (brinjal preparation), dondakaya vepudu (an ivy gourd preparation), before finishing off with a sumptuous dose of perugu (curd rice).

While a variation of thali is found throughout the country many Indian states have their own local version of it. It is said that thali originated in South India. That is why South Indian cuisine, dominated by rice, is filled with dishes that are meant to be eaten when combined with rice. Bread is the rice to the Italians of the South Indians. As a result, the middle section of thali is reserved for rice.