|A bit like Ethiopian fasting foods...|
Can't decide what you want to eat? Here's the sampler platter of all sampler platters, pupu platters of all pupu platters. India has the solution for both the indecisive and the bottomless stomach - the thali. Literally meaning plate in Hindi, you get little stainless steel bowls on a large plate usually filled with the region's specialities. Typically you'll get some lentils, a seasonal vegetable, paneer (cheese), chapatis, papads, rice yogurt, a sweet and is either "pure vegetarian" aka meatless and eggless or non-vegetarian with meat items thrown it. So far, it's my favorite thing to order on the menu, giving me a taste of several things without having to order multiple dishes. If there was a competition between "veg" and "non-veg", the "veg" is definitely in the lead.
In Udaipur, the best pure vegetarian (not to be confused with vegan since lots of butter, cheese and yogurt is part of the mix) thali can be found at Natraj. Every ayurvedic massage therapist, auto rickshaw and taxi driver knows where it is. When you get there, don't go to the pricier a la carte second floor. You'll see, fewer people will be sitting there. The action takes place on the first floor where Rs120 gets you an "unlimited" meal. You'll take your seat in front of a typical thali set up. The show begins when the waiters start to make their rounds with all the different dishes that will fill your bowls. Our menu consisted of lassi, buttermilk soup, aloo, dal, makhani paneer, chana, okra, salad, some mashed and fried vegetables, papad, butter chapati, rice, and jalebi. Everything prepared fresh. That lassi was a savior because most of the food was spicy! After you're loaded up, you can say yes or no to refills as the waiters make their rounds in the dining room. Think dim sum or Brazilian churrascaria. Despite a three alarm fire raging in my mouth, I double (maybe even triple) dosed on the paneer, chana and okra. Alex settled for rice, chapati, a pair of chickpeas, three servings of tomato and cucumber salad and equally that many servings of sticky, sweet jalebi. In pure veg style, you wash it down with some water (or soda). There's no beer service here.
Needless to say, you're not walking away hungry at this place. One of the best thalis so far and more to come. So, bring on the smorgasboard, I'm ready to sample.