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The steel plate 'thali', which translates as 'meal', is a common dish in Northern India. There are probably as many types of thali as there are restaurants and roadside dhobis1 that serve them. Nearly always a vegetarian dish, a thali is usually served on a large round steel plate, and consists of chapati, sometimes papad or another wheat-based staple bread, with two or three smaller steel side dishes of pickle or sauce. Two types of vegetable curry are served onto the main plate, along with rice, and curd to cool the flames left by any hot sauces.

Thalis are eaten with the fingers of the right hand, using the four fingers as a scoop and the thumb as a shovel to push food into the mouth. If you are lucky, your plate will be refilled until you can stand it no more, but if this is the case it is very bad manners to ask for food which you cannot eat. Thalis are usually washed down with water, served in a steel cup. This will likely as not be tap water, which in turn will likely as not give you diarrhoea.

1A dhobis is a roadside laundry spot.

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