Thali (Hindi/Nepali: थाली, Gujarati: થાળી, Tamil: தட்டு, pronounced "Thattu", Meitei: Chakluk; meaning "plate") is a round platter used to serve food in the Indian subcontinent. 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).
Thali refers to the metal plate that a thali meal may be served on. Thali is popular in Punjab  , Uttar Pradesh and other states in North India. The idea behind a Thali is to offer all the 6 different flavors of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one single plate (technically the last two are actually forms of chemesthesis rather than true flavors). According to Indian food custom, a proper meal should be a perfect balance of all these 6 flavors. 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. 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, 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.
Unlimited thalis are those that come with limitless refills. Kunal Vijaykar considers an unlimited thali as quintessentially Indian, not just for variety or limitlessness, but because it is true to Indian tradition.
- "INTACH Haryana newsletter", INTACH, page 34.
- 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 March 5, 2015.
- "Decording Indian Cuisine", in Spicy Thali blog, 26 June 2011. (Entry retrieved 3 June 2012)
- Desai, Anjali H. (2007). India Guide Gujarat. India Guide Publications.
- Planet, Lonely; Singh, Sarina; Benanav, Michael; Blasi, Abigail; Clammer, Paul; Elliott, Mark; Harding, Paul; Mahapatra, Anirban; Noble, John (2015-09-01). Lonely Planet India. Lonely Planet.
- "Kunal Vijayakar picks the best places to savour an unlimited thali in Mumbai". 2017-04-21. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
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