Indian Thali is a complete meal with balance of all flavours and textures. The concept of thali is that all the nutrients are included in the meal plate. As with most of the Indian customs/rituals, the Thali also has scientific reasoning behind it — right from the content of thali to its presentation.
Different seasons and festivals have specific curry, salads, juices, starter and desserts. The selection is motivated by availability of seasonal vegetables and fruits which provides required nutrient and minerals to body for that particular climate/season.
India has 3 main seasons (except Kashmir and Ladhakh near Himalayan range), Summer (35 – 48 degree C), Winter (0 to 20 degree C) and Monsoon (Rainy season, main source of fresh water for crops and drinking). Indian festivals are also celebrated depending upon climate and season. The idea is very scientific and logically correct. Hindu rituals suggest you to eat and drink according to the season to stay healthy and fit during that season. Specific food/dish is incorporated into customs while celebrating any festival. Idea behind that is people should eat specific seasonal food and juices to protect their body from effect of climate changes and also they should grow those specific crops suitable to that climate.
A human body requires 5 main components in the food, namely, Carbohydrates, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals , Fats — all these components are represented in thali as per human body’s requirements.
Given below are main elements of the Indian Thali : —
- Curry –Made up of Different vegetables/Cottage Cheese/Beans and Spices. There are at least two curries served in a typical thali. These curries are primary source of vitamins & minerals and are seasoned with different spices which have their own medicinal value. Having multiple curries ensures that different vitamins & minerals(V&M) are being consumed to complete the health quota for the day! Since we require less amount of V&M, amount of curry served/consumed is less as compared to other stuff.
- Rice/Pulao /Khichadi– Main Source of carbohydrates. It is coupled with Dal (lentils)to provide a combo of carbohydrate & protein.
- Roti/Chapati/Naan/Puri (Indian Bread)– Made up of wheat primarily, it is source of protein and carbohydrates. It is similar to Tortillas or Bread and goes well with Curry and dal.
- Dal/Pulses/Lentils – It is the primary source of Proteins. Vegetarians are often asked what is the substitute for animal proteins – here it is!
- Apart from this there are several side dishes to provide balance of textures and flavours.
- Pickles – It acts as a supplement of salt, minerals & vitamins. Made up of almost all fruits n vegetables – Mango, Lime,Chilli, Ginger, Carrot,Tamarind, Gooseberry to name a few. Eg: Lime is source of Citric acid, green mango is source of vitamin C etc. Main purpose is that pickled fruit/vegetable will provide nutrition even when that fruit/vegetable is not available in market. It can be eaten with anything savory. It has power to spice up any bland food – Very Spicy n Hot! :)
- Salads of different types Vegetables/Fruits with dressing
- Papad/Poppadums — Helps in Digestion
and Last but not the Least SWEETS (Dessert) !!!
- SWEETS (MITHAI) are essential part of any Indian meal. Eggs never used and Milk & Ghee (butter) is mostly used in preparation. Sweets supply sugar for hot climate of India. You will find recipes with extra use of sugar in region with hot sunny days . See the complete list of Indian Sweets here. Sometimes Fruit salad with ice cream or just ice cream is served as dessert.
- Paan — These are Beetel Leaves with different spices and condiments. Depending upon your liking you decide whether to intake Paan after heavy/wedding/ festival meal. It is consumed post Lunch/dinner for aiding digestion and also act as mouth freshener. They different fillings in the paan can be sweet, bitter or combination of both. On chewing beetle leaves, red juice is generated which is highly beneficial for digestive system. By default, this juice is bitter and leaves slightly bad taste in mouth; To ease that, different ingredients such as cardamom, Gulkand (rose petals dipped in honey), coconut, cherry , etc are added. It is advised to have only one Paan as it is addictive!
Indians are mostly vegetarian since thousands of years. This Thali system provides everything that human body requires, so technically there is no need for extra dose of proteins from animal meat/ sea food /egg. However, by choice and taste requirement, there are also non-vegetarian thali/dishes available which includes egg curry/chicken/fish curry/prawn curry.
See Typical Vegetarian Thali Meal (Dish/Plate)
(Gujarati Thali in Agashiye restaurant at The house of MG on NDTV goodtimes)
Disclaimer: This is as per Google, you tube, Wikipedia search and my current understanding about the Indian Cuisine.
Image credit- Wikipedia
Sources: Wikipedia, Google search, youtube, and other hyperlinks provided in the post.