Monday, February 01, 2016


Vasu Reddy from Chicago

There is no mistaking that there is a thali for every type of cuisine.  Non-vegetarian thali is equally popular and is famous.  Before we delve into my favorite food thali (unlimited variety or the great American Buffet) first we acknowledge that just about every country has a variation of the south Indian vegetarian thali.  To start with vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali (one of the best in the world outside of the five states of south India) is in Singapore, which is famously based on the old Tamil Nadu migrants serving food in lungis and with huge serving of rice and variety of dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

There is a little bit of a mix in referring to Thali (can be a limited one serving of assortment of dishes served with rice and chapatti or puri, or unlimited servings of food which keeps coming until one is fully satisfies and can’t eat anymore).

The meals are served in different settings depending on where you are or live or visit the restaurant.  Typically a thali is a round plate, with an assortment of small dishes accompanying with the thali with different varieties of food items served in the middle with chapatti or puri followed by rice.

The dishes served vary from region to region, most times even district to district in every state.  Much of the catering is to the local customers, and trying to keep with local nuances and tastes.  A typical Indian thali includes rice, dal, roti, papad, curd/yogurt, seasonal vegetables, rasam, sambar and small amounts of chutney and powders along with ghee, and the daily sweet dish.

Much of the Indian customers are creatures of habit.  Their preferences in food habits are typical to their native place, although they love food much of the Indian population prefers to eat their local cuisine with local flavors.  With the modernization of the country and people moving from place to place due to work and business, the food is also becoming mobile.  All major cities and towns now have assortment of restaurants that cater to just about all regional tastes, thus giving the touch of local tastes to folks who have to relocate, and also provide a taste of different parts of India to the locals.

The wonderful concept of unlimited serving of food (full meals as I know from South India) is a concept that is world over.  The great American Buffet (can be from any nation in the world) is a popular concept and a popular destination for the ever hungry Americans.  Hundreds of dishes (our local Chinese buffet even has Pizza and fries and fried chicken) are laid out and absolutely no restrictions on what you can eat and how much you can eat all for a few bucks.  The South Indian full meal sort of translates into the western buffet.  Many of the cities in USA have Indian restaurants with Buffet that claims Indian, Pakistani and Bangladesh all in one buffet.  One can’t really tell which is which, but the choice of food is enormous so you can simply pick and choose what you like and still amounts to a great value for the money, and you can eat all you want.

Indian itself has been evolving with its restaurants and tastes.  Every major population center has restaurants that cater to all regional tastes of India.  In fact just about every nation with sizeable Indian populations has Indian restaurants that have buffet, which covers most of the regional Indian cuisine.  Although home and local restaurants are far away, there is no time to miss the food from home.  While the touch of nativity is missing, the taste and sound of food from home is delivered just about wherever we are.

Any kind of thali, South Indian, North Indian (any state of India), Nepalese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and every national and regional buffet is ready to help us sit down and chow down, all for a small price, and nowadays available in just about every place on earth.  Go out and enjoy the Thali (buffet) all for a small price and bringing the taste of home away from home.

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