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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mad About Thali Meals in India


It was at Agra, our third city stop in India where I looked behind me and saw the couple seated next table relishing an interesting looking plate filled with varying dishes. We asked the waiter what it was. "That is Thali ma'am and sir" replied the amiable restaurant staff. Without further ado, I ordered one for myself while Aileen, still worried about contracting diarrhea ordered something else. For starters like myself, Thali (means 'plate') is an Indian and Nepali meal that consists of varying dishes like vegetable curry dish, dal, rice, papad and curd or yogurt and is served on a large round plate.  

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© Aileen Siroy of Travel. Food. Finds
I would often go gung-ho and order the spiciest ones, until later on I tapered off by settling on a mild spicy Thali. Since then, our every stop must include a Thali fix for me which always invite Aileen's curious stare-down while mouthing the words, "Marky, don't you get tired of eating it?". To which I'd gleefully do the Indian bobble head sideways and say "nope, No, no, no. Nope". The thing is, this meal differs in every region as there are Rajasthani Thali, Nepalese Thali, Gujarati Thali and so on. One really would never get tired of having this meal.

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© Aileen Siroy of Travel. Food. Finds
I like the fact that, just like with most Indian dishes, it is better to use your bare hands when eating it. I'm not a big fan of yogurts before, but served among the spicy and tasty dishes - it perfectly performs its purpose of balancing the rioting and mouth savoring infusion of tastes that forms in my mouth, when I'm chugging it all down - in mostly one-go. 

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© Aileen Siroy of Travel. Food. Finds
Not long after, Aileen finally tried ordering one at Jodphur, where we spent the morning trying to find this hole-in-the-wall eatery which according to online guides are one of the best in the city. After the tuktuk driver took us to a crowded street and pointed to us what seems like a shop that resembles anything except a restaurant, we thought he was just trying to trick us. 

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© Aileen Siroy of Travel. Food. Finds
But lo and behold, after asking the local seated and in the middle of his chilling-downtime moment, we were given the affirmative and it was indeed the place we were looking for. I haven't warmed my seat yet and I was already ordering my thali. A few minutes later the waiter comes carrying this large round plate while putting chapatis on it. Again I could not be bothered and just like a kid in front of a spread of candies and chocolates, I started using both my hands to dig down on the plate before me. 

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© Aileen Siroy of Travel. Food. Finds
"Okay, I'll order one" Aileen says aloud but with a tinge of apprehension. But eventually she liked it, and since the servings are really big we went back out to the sunny streets of Jodphur all filled up. Eventually after Jodphur, I started ordering other dishes in order to sample a wider variety of Indian cuisines, even though my taste buds are still yearning for the rich assorted tastes of the dishes that completes a thali meal.

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© Aileen Siroy of Travel. Food. Finds
After I arrived back in the Philippines and my friends would ask me what I misses most in India, I'd answered quickly "the food" much of it was because of this meal. Like everything I experienced during our 25 day trip in India, the food, the wonderful people, the ghats of Varanasi, the Taj Mahal, the forts and desert dunes of the state of Rajasthan, the chaos of Kolkata and Mumbai, they all make up this gallery of unforgettable images in my mind. I can't wait to go back and just sit down on a random food joint and be mad over Thali once again. 

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