I have the most amazing adventure to share with you: while we were in India, we took a 6-day train journey through the state of Karnataka in South India (from Bangalore to Goa). It was magical, life-changing, spiritual, educational, and full of delicious things to eat.
Traveling by train on the Golden Chariot was like going on a cruise, but on land. We would travel at night, and in the morning wake up in a new city, ready to explore! And I have to say, it was amazing to see 7 cities in 7 days without having to pack a suitcase 7 times!
The chef and his team on the train created a week’s worth of amazing meals with only induction & electric burners & ovens. All of the produce was bought fresh in Bangalore, so that everything would be up to the chef’s standards.
And we had some gorgeous meals on the train. Stay tuned to hear about breakfasts (always amazing in India!), but for lunches and dinners there were always a couple of different choices: vegetarian or non-vegetarian and Continental or Indian. Of course, I always went with the Indian vegetarian option: a vegetarian thali.
A thali is a combo of Indian curries. It’s usually served on a large, round metal platter, with each curry in its own small metal bowl, along with rice, flatbread, raita (yogurt), and sometimes dessert. You can find thalis at most Indian restaurants, and they’re a great way to have a little taste of everything.
On the train, the vegetarian thalis were always made up of 4 vegetarian curries, rice, a flatbread, some fresh veggies, spicy pickle, and a raita. Starters and desserts were served as separate courses. And yes, this is can be an awful lot of food!!!!
And yes, I took really good notes for you so that you could vicariously enjoy my thali adventures:
We left Bangalore on a Monday evening, and I knew the first meal would determine the quality of the food for the rest of the trip. The dinner thali absolutely cemented the fact that the food on the train was outstanding.
The curries in our first thali (clockwise from left) were: Manguluru Paneer Masala (homemade fresh cheese in a spiced tomato gravy), Mysuru Brinjal Curry (eggplant), Dharwadi Bendekai (okra in a yogurt gravy), and Drumstick ulli Sambar (lentil soup). They were served with Khajur Kele ka Raita (date yogurt), Fluffy Steamed Rice, and Kori Roti (paper-thin rice bread).
Each day the curries were served with a papadam cone (a peppery lentil cracker), a bit of veggie slaw, and a dollop of spicy red pickle:
Our lunch thali in Mysore had (clockwise from left): Shahi Paneer (fresh cheese cooked in a sweet & creamy gravy), Dum Aloo Chutneywale (baby potatoes in a green mint & coriander gravy), Gobi Masala (cauliflower roasted in a yogurt gravy with tons of turmeric), Lehsuri Moong Dal (garlicky yellow mung bean curry with lots of mustard seeds), Onion Mint Raita (a perfect yogurt atop the rice!), Tadkewali Coconut Rice (like a biryani with onions, raisins, and cashews), and a paratha that I passed off to Mr. KitchenOperas.
In Hassan we had one of my favourite thalis of the trip (clockwise from left): Paneer Kali Mirch (fresh cheese in a peppercorn gravy), Malai Kofta (a new favourite for me: a fresh cheese dumpling cooked in a creamy saffron gravy that was just a teeny bit sweet), Cabbage Peas Poriyal (one of my favourite South Indian dishes: boiled cabbage and green peas finished with fresh coconut shavings), Dal Hara Moong Mughlai (a thick green lentil curry with brown onions), Aloo Raita (potato yogurt… this was a bit weird), and Makai Till Rice (rice with perfect summery corn kernels).
And our dinner thali in Hassan was also lovely (clockwise from left): Paneer Pasanda (fresh cheese in a buttery spiced gravy), Bharwaan Shimla Mirch (peppers stuffed with fresh cheese & raisins — ohhhh yum), Methi Malai Mutter (green peas & fresh fenugreek leaves in a creamy curry), Palak Dal (my favourite dal of the trip — spinach & lentil curry), Burrani Raita (garlic, cumin & peppercorn yogurt), and a paratha for Mr. KitchenOperas.
The lunch thali in Hampi had a couple of new favourite dishes in it for me (clockwise from left): Palak Paneer (fresh cheese in a spinach gravy, one of my perpetual favourites), Hyderabadi Baigan Masala (eggplant in a tomato gravy with Hyderabadi spices), Aloo Till Moongshali (divine potato cubes finished with sesame seeds and roasted peanuts — I’m definitely replicating these flavours at home), Lauki Chana Dal (a truly divine lentil curry with pumpkin, garlic, onion, and asafetida), Boondi Raita (chickpea flour dumplings in yogurt), and Tomato Pudina Rice (tomato & mint rice), with a paratha for Mr. KitchenOperas.
Our Badami lunch was quite special — “Badami” means “almond”, and so lunch included several almond dishes, starting with a spinach salad with toasted cashews & skinned almonds, and a Subz Badami Shorba (a creamy almond soup with pureed zucchini and broccoli).
The thali also included (clockwise from left): Paneer Tikka Masala (fresh cheese in a divine & rich tomato gravy), Mushroom Jalfrezi (beautiful small mushrooms cooked with onions, green peppers, and tomatoes), Pyoz Tamaer ka Mussalem (baby onions stewed in tomato sauce — mmmm), Dal Pinni (lentil curry with spinach and tomatoes), and Pineapple Raita (sweet and creamy pineapple yogurt).
And then we were en route to Goa, and ate a final dinner thali while on the move — so fun! — (clockwise from left): Paneer Khurchan (fresh cheese cooked with onions, tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers), Bhindi do Pyaza (one of my old favourites: okra cooked with onions & tomatoes), Bhutte de Kebab (a new favourite: baby corn kebabs served with fresh mint chutney), Tomato Moong Masoor Ki Dal (mung bean, red lentil & tomato curry), Cucumber Raita (cucumber yogurt), and Palak Rice (pastel green spinach rice!).
Most days I declined the bread (different types of gluteny paratha/roti) or handed it off to Mr. KitchenOperas, but this one was made with chickpea flour — missi roti — which tasted just like my Gluten-Free Chickpea Chapati. It was a great treat!
Oh yes, thali on a train is definitely my new favourite way to eat.