A Thali: Food for the soul, anytime

As a kid, I always relished good food that tantalized my taste buds, and over the years, I felt it should be an experience and not just eating for the sake of it. This made me take a keen interest in global cuisine. Over the years, I have tried to focus on not just the…

As a kid, I always relished good food that tantalized my taste buds, and over the years, I felt it should be an experience and not just eating for the sake of it. This made me take a keen interest in global cuisine. Over the years, I have tried to focus on not just the taste but also on a proper mix of nourishment.

While I have many favorites from Indian and Western cuisine, I was always intrigued by Maharashtrian cuisine, especially after having feasted on some of the popular dishes and seen innumerable drool-worthy pictures of Pav Bhaji, Misal Pav, Puran Poli, Vada Pav, Poha, etc.

So when we recently relocated to Pune from Dubai, I was excited at the thought of finally getting to taste the authentic flavors of this cuisine at its birthplace. Thus began my love affair with Marathi food.

To begin with, I always imagined that this cuisine was spicy and delicious, in a street food kind of way. Which, to be honest, it is. The locals love snacking, and there is an array of options readily available.

I, however, was pleasantly surprised when I slowly started to discover that the real food cooked in the homes of locals here is, in fact, extremely healthy. Although words like “vegan” and “gluten-free” came to our knowledge quite recently and borrowed from the West, this cuisine is almost entirely based on these principles. The flatbreads (bhakri) are made with millets, which, of course, are grown in nearby farms, making sense that it’s part of their menu. There is a variety of vegetarian options that use peanuts, coconut, and sesame oil, making them just the most perfect ingredients for an extremely healthy yet flavorful diet.

The more I have delved into the nuances and intricacies of Maharashtrian cuisine, I have been to discover that my “quinoa”-loving mind actually had a change of heart and fell head over heels in love with the simplest yet the most exciting symphony of ingredients and flavors available here. This experience has been eye-opening for me.

I recently created this vegan, gluten-free thali using local ingredients and recipes, and what a delicious, vibrant feast it was for us all. As my husband said after having the thali – Truly “Food for the Soul”.

On the plate from left: Red Chilly Thecha/Chutney, Sol Kadhi/Kokum and Coconut Curry (Served Chilled), Mungachi Usal/Sprouted Mung Bean Curry, Bhareli Vangi/Stuffed Eggplant Curry, Pithla/Chickpea Flour Curry, Jowar Bhakri/Millet Flatbread, and Rice.

Surabhi Sehgal, a renowned food stylist and recipe developer who recently moved to Pune and fell in love with the city and Maharashtrian culture and food, contributes for the first time to our gastronomy section. And we look forward to many more such contributions.

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