Think Jaipur and all things royal instantly come to mind — from palaces to forts, clothes to jewellery, and of course food. And when it comes to food what can beat a Rajasthani thali? A melange of age-old preparations from across the state carefully curated on a platter, the thali offers an insight into Rajasthan’s cuisine and culinary history.
What is a Rajasthani thali and why is it important?
In Rajasthan, traditionally, meals are eaten together as a family and the thali, a large platter of local preparations served with rice and rotis, is shared among the family members. “Family members typically sit together on the floor and the thali is placed on a low stool known as bajot,” informs chef Akshraj Jodha, the Executive Chef at ITC Grand Bharat, who comes from the royal family of Jodhpur. According to Jodha, thalis have traditionally been associated with the family’s stature — the humble eat a humble thali, the rich eat an elaborate one, and the royals partake in the most exclusive and exquisite meals often served on gold thaals. “In some royal households,” recalls Jodha, “the head of the family would eat in real gold thalis while other members ate in silver.”
The good news is that you do not have to be a royal to eat in a silver or even a golden thali today. The most exclusive and exquisite meals are available to everyone now, especially in Jaipur where almost every restaurant serves its version of the Rajasthani thali. We bring to you some of the finest thalis available in the Pink City.
1. Mohan Mahal, The Leela Palace
One of the modern icons of Jaipur, Mohan Mahal is an ode to the city’s history — both cultural and culinary. Adorned with millions of mirrors a-la Sheesh Mahal, the restaurant is a destination on its own but is equally relevant for its food. “One of our brilliant culinary showcases at Mohan Mahal is the Mohan Mahal Thali,” informs Chef Pushpinder Saini, Chef De Cuisine. “The thali,” says Saini, “serves more than 18 distinct dishes from the royal kitchens and brings to you the aromas and flavours from across Rajasthan on your plate." The highlights here include the quintessential dal bati churma, Shekhawati nalli, Sarabi maas, tees papad and Pitodh palak.
2. Suvarna Mahal, Rambagh Palace
Rajput valour, glory and grandeur — this is the essence that prevails at the Suvarna Mahal, originally the regal banquet room of the royal family of Jaipur. The chefs at Suvarna Mahal have mastered royal cuisines from the princely states of Rajasthan and have become culinary icons in their own right. A meal here is a great way to sample a cross-section of Rajasthani micro cuisines. While the menu is extensive here, the favourites include the robust local favourite, laal maas, the rustic and spicy dhuandhar murg, the spicy and tangy gatte ki sabzi along with bajra rotis and khushka, a rice dish made using saffron. The malpua and rabri, quintessential Rajasthani desserts, wrap up the grand meal perfectly.
3. Jaipur Pavilion, ITC Rajputana
A selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis await you at the Jaipur Pavilion, set under glittering chandeliers of the regal ITC Rajputana. “Our thalis are created using local ingredients and consist of delicacies unique to Rajasthan,” informs Parul Kapoor, Executive Chef, ITC Rajputana. The thalis here include traditional dishes like papad paneer, ker sangri, aloo pyaaz ki subzi, dal panchmel, saada and masala baati, gehu churma, lehsun ki chutney, boondi raita and a lot more. But it is the laal maas and murgh Jodhpuri that steal the show at the Jaipur Pavilion.
4. Laxmi Misthan Bhandar, Johari Bazaar
As far as the thali goes, there are few that are older than the iconic Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar or LMB as it’s now called. The institution opened its doors in 1727 and has been serving the most authentic Rajasthani food ever since. The thali being one. Standing in a heritage building on the main Johari Bazaar, LMB is a favourite not just with tourists and travellers but also locals who feel no other place makes the thaal like they do. With home-like preparations of dal baati, kadhi, choorma, various kinds of pickles, chutneys, and dry local sabzi, this thaal is as close to a home meal as you can get in Jaipur.
5. Chokhi Dhani, Sitapura
It is impossible to talk of thalis in Jaipur and not talk of Chokhi Dhani. The place is single-handedly responsible for making Rajasthani thali popular back in the ’90s when few people knew of the concept. The rustic local flavours coupled with their signature mehmaannawazi and love for the guests continue to keep Chokhi Dhani among the most popular thali places in Jaipur. Whether it is the white butter and jaggery served with bajra roti, endless cups of chaach or the spicy curries served with ghee, everything here remains as it was years ago.