A Week of Indian Food: Day 2 – the Thali

Like chai, the thali is a long-standing Indian tradition. Thali means “plate” in Hindi, and what a plate it is. Essentially, it’s comprised of a mound of rice on a steel plate surrounded by a variety of dishes. Depending on the region and the price, it could include any number of things. A cheap northern thali might include a few chappati (flat bread), some dhal (lentil stew), and a cooked vegetable. Southern thalis are more likely to include rice, sambar (spicy lentil/tomato soup), and coconut-based curries.

We ate several thalis in India, but unfortunately I only took photos of one. Todd ordered this in a Jaipur restaurant, and it is on the fancier end of the thali spectrum.

Taadaa!

Taadaa!

It includes rice, naan, roti (flat bread), dhal, malai kofta (potato-cheese dumpling), a paneer (soft-cheese) curry, pappadum (a lentil crisp), raita (yogurt and cucumber), a vat of salty, spicy pickle, and gulab jamun (deep-fried milk ball soaked in syrup). Oh, and intriguingly enough, an entire bowl of purple onions.

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Some restaurants will continue re-filling your dishes until you beg them to stop, but at this particular joint, Todd had to make do with the original portions. Poor boy. He really didn’t get enough food.

Christmas Dinner(s)

It seems necessary to update you all on what we ate for our actual Christmas dinner. The pictures won’t do it justice, but if you really want to experience it with us, rub a mixture of oil, dirt, and curry powder on your hands, scent the air with a mixture of camel and kerosene, play a recording of cows grunting and digesting, and hunker down for a feed. Anyway, let’s start with breakfast:

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Toast, masala omlettes, and endless cups of chai on the roof of our ancient guesthouse.

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Lunch: Paneer tikka, Chicken tikka, and naan. It wasn’t turkey, but it was a smoky slice of paradise. It haunts my dreams.

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And finally, dinner. Malai kofta, aloo gobhi, and more naan. My face expresses exactly what I was feeling at this moment. The meal may have been followed with an Indian sweet – the perfect sugar bomb chaser.

Food wise, the day was a winner. On another note, it was actually really neat to experience Christmas in the dessert – the ancient buildings, dusty streets, and livestock made it easier to picture what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. I cannot imagine giving birth to anything in Jaisalmer, let alone Jesus. A fresh perspective, in between all the naan.