Streetfood Stories: Thali – the Indian classic


The streetfood of India has a history almost as rich and diverse as the country itself. In Streetfood Stories we reveal the tales behind some of our popular dishes. 


The secret to a good thali is the balance of flavours

Of all the varied streetfoods of India, the Thali is probably the best known – especially in the West, where it is the dish most of the backpackers who began visiting India in the 60s most fondly remember eating at some roadside cafe.

Its not hard to see why – it’s a dish that is served from the snowy mountains of the north right down to the palm-fringed southern coast, and probably the most common style of dining in India.

It’s not, of course, a dish in itself but a style of eating – a selection of mini dishes served together on a large plate called a Thali and from which it gets its name.

It’s a uniquely Asian approach to food – and while sometimes compared to Spanish tapas the two have very little in common.

The thali is not just random dishes assembled on a plate, there is a philosophy behind it. Indian food is based on finding the perfect balance of 6 essential flavours –  sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy. A good Thali brings all these together in beautiful harmony on a single plate.

At Chai Street we take great pride in our thalis and great care in their preparation – often chef will check the weather before planning the thalis for the day, making sure the spices used complement the weather outside!

It is said in India that you can judge the quality of cafe by the thalis they make – something we agree with, and hope you will when you try ours!


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