Hindi Language Blog

What is in a South Indian Thali? Posted by on Feb 28, 2022 in Food

We continue our series श्रेणी on the types of Indian Thali. As we know, the thali is a dish but also a plate. Thalis vary depending on the region क्षेत्र. There are vegetarian thalis and there are non-vegetarian thalis. Vegetarian and vegan thalis reign supreme सर्वोच्च in India, because a large portion of the population follows the Hindu guidelines दिशा निर्देशों of vegetarianism.

The southern part of India consists of the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. These states have a shared culture साझा संस्कृति, and many similarities in language as well. For the purpose of understanding, we will refer हवाला देना to these states with one general term – South Indian.

When it comes to food, there are generally certain staple dishes in every South Indian thali.  Staples on the South Indian thali are rice, sambar, rasam, and chutney. The rice is in the center of the plate and the chutney, on to one side. The sambar and rasam are in little stainless steel bowls. Each thali has food with spicy, sweet, salty-sour and bitter मसालेदार, मीठा, नमकीन, खट्टा,कड़वा ingredients, making this a party on the palate.

No matter how simple the thali is, the ingredients range from appetizers to dessert.


For example, fried lentil cakes like medhu vadas, deep-fried vegetables, and fritters serve as appetizers. South Indians eat this with a green or white coconut chutney laden with spice and chilies.

Papadum in various forms – with pepper, chili flakes or plain accompany the thali as well. At this point, the rasam serves as a soup. Rasam is a combination of lentils and black pepper, said to aid digestion.

First Course

The first course usually consists of vegetables and bread. South Indians love coconut and therefore many vegetable dishes have coconut, such as cabbage poriyal, green bean poriyal, etc. It is customary to eat the vegetable dishes with unleavened wheat bread called chapatis or Rotis. You have to break of a piece and scoop up the vegetable with the piece of bread.

There are regional variations of staple foods such as cabbage गोभी,  lentil cakes दाल केक,, green beansहरी सेम, etc. The coastal regions especially on the west coast use a lot of coconut in their food. While the East coast uses more red chilies in their dishes.

Second Course

After you finish the chapati with vegetables it is time to go on to the next course on the thali, which is rice and sambar. As a result, the spiciest dishes come from Andhra Pradesh. Malabar cuisine offers a range of dishes with coconut and spices. A tourist can find these cuisines in coastal regions on the West Coast of India. There are vegetables and lentils in the spicy sambar which acts as a gravy over the rice.  Sambar is sour and spicy to taste.


Round the meal off with a sweet delish paal payasam which is tasty rice pudding filled with nuts and raisins. Or you can savor the ghee-rich Mysore Pak, Boorelu which is deep-fried lentils, Kozhukkattai is a popular South Indian sweet dumpling made from rice flour, with a filling of grated coconut and jaggery.

All in all, you are in for a multi-course treat when you order a South Indian thali.





Tags: , ,
Keep learning Hindi with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Nicole Herbert Dean

Language, Region and Culture Consultant to the Department of Defense and United States Military.