Thali like it is: Regional Indian cuisine on one plate

Hosted by

Marrying green, leafy vegetables with meat is the hallmark of North Indian cooking. This classic palak, or spinach and chicken curry, is spiced with ginger, coriander, and garam masala, and is often included in thalis of the region. Photo by Sam A. Harris.

Composed of curry, stir fry, dried vegetables, yogurt, bread, and rice, thali translates to “large plate.” Chef Maunika Gowardhan explains they are served throughout India with regional variations. From humble dishes to elaborate versions, Gowardhan says warmth, texture, flavor, spice, and heat are all encompassed in thali.

Her everyday thali includes bread, dal, a vegetable, and a bowl of yogurt, compared to her wedding day thali that was served on a silver platter. Metals are thought to have beneficial properties for health, so thalis will often be served in copper and even gold. Over 20 dishes were served at Gowardhan’s wedding ceremony. “I was quite a hungry bride, what can I say,” she says. “If you haven’t been to an Indian wedding, I would strongly recommend going to one because the food is phenomenal. You don’t just get one dish from a certain country, state, or region, you get a variety of them.”

Her book is “Thali: A Joyful Celebration of Indian Home Cooking.”

Maunika Gowardhan explains the literal translation of thali is “large plate” and six taste components served on one vessel comprise a whole meal throughout India. Photo by Sam A. Harris.

In her book “Thali: A Joyful Celebration of Indian Home Cooking,” Maunika Gowardhan shares recipes for regional dishes and one-plate meals. Photo courtesy of Hardie Grant.