Indian cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines native to India. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions.Also, Middle Eastern and Central Asian influences have occurred on North Indian cuisine from the years of Mughal rule. Indian cuisine is still evolving, as a result of the nation’s cultural interactions with other societies.
Thali is an Indian-style meal, made up of a selection of various dishes, served on a platter. The ‘thali’ style serving is also popular in Nepal and Bangladesh. It simply means a round platter used to serve food. 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 (although the latter two flavors are actually forms of chemesthesis). According to Indian food serving customs, a proper meal should be a perfect balance of all these 6 flavors.
Dishes served in a Thali vary from region to region in South Asia and are usually served in small bowls, called katori. These ‘katoris’ are placed along the borders of the round tray – the actual thali; even a steel tray with multiple compartments is used. Typical dishes include rice, dal, vegetables, roti, papad, curd (yoghurt), 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.
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.