Thali goes quick-eat in world of corporate bites

New Delhi: Thali, the traditional Indian platter consisting of a variety of home-cooked delicacies, has donned a corporate avatar thanks to the biggest regional cuisine chain in the country.

Khandani Rajdhani, which has 30 outlets in 19 Indian cities and in Oman, has introduced new breakfast and weekend platters apart from improvising on its lunch and dinner thali.

The image makeover is aimed at the ever-growing population of young professionals who are on the move and looking for a quick bite of hearty, guilt-free food.

"It (thali) is becoming India`s regional brand ambassador in the world of quick eats and business bites, which for millions of green Indians across the world translates into a `shuddh shakahari masaledaar ghar ka khana` (pure vegetarian, spicy, home cooked meal) at an affordable price," said Aji Nair, assistant vice-president (food and beverages) of Mirah Hospitality, which manages the eatery chain.

The chain offers a selection of at least 20 Rajasthani and Gujarati vegetarian delicacies apart from the very basic roti, chawal, dal, kadi, sabzi, bhaji and dahi.

The vegetarian thali eatery Friday relaunched itself at Scindia House in Connaught Place, six months after it closed its old outlet at the Daulat Ram House in the area.

While the weekday Prasanna platters and the weekend Utsav spreads are already on the menu, the breakfast thali with a spread of 17 pan-Indian regional morning delights is still on the cook`s table.

"Breakfast is becoming an elaborate affair in India, especially among corporate executives who look for a hearty meal soon after leaving home for work," Nair told reporters.

The strategic location of the new eatery at Scindia House, a business hub, is targeting the large breakfast crowd, Nair said.

"The new restaurant is a 2,000 sq ft outlet divided into two floors with 70 covers (seats). It tries to recreate the state and the aura of Rajasthan and Gujarat, both in its decor and menu, which do not follow a recipe module, but the homespun model in which the menu changes every morning," Nair said.

The platter costs Rs.275 (plus taxes) on weekdays and Rs.315 (plus taxes) on weekends while the takeaway working meals and lunch packs are priced at Rs.65 and Rs.99 respectively.

Nair says the chain has served over 8.5 million customers since it was set up in 1986.

The usual feast rolls out rose water sherbet, buttermilk followed by a cube of lime, fresh vegetable salad, green coriander and tamarind chutney, dal bati-churma, gramflour khandvi, mixed vegetable tikka, paneer pakoda and mini tomato uttapam with coconut chutney for starters.

The main course is heavier.

Three varieties of Indian breads - phulka, thepla and bajre ka rotlam (from Rajasthan and Gujarat respectively) topped with butter - are accompanied by two dishes of white and yellow rice, four kinds of curried green vegetables, Jaipur ka gatta, kadi, sweet Gujarati lentil, Rajasthani spicy lentil and aloo rasa, papadam and pickles.

The breads vary. "Four of the most popular breads include missi roti, thepla, bajre ka roti and phulka - the dietary staples which are eaten with either gatte ki sabzi or kair-sangri - two ubiquitous delicacies from the dry northwestern deserts. Every day we mix and match our menu," corporate chef Neti Ram, who is in charge of the Rajdhani oulets in the capital and the national capital region, told reporters.

Kair-sangri tops the list of favourites among both old and young, Neti Ram said.

The chain has a bank of 22,464 recipes with 72 rotating menus, Neti Ram said.

The menu is controlled by Mumbai, where the chefs from across the country meet once every month to decide on the spread. "I am fastidious about the quality of water because it gives colour and texture to desert food," the chef said.

The chain, whose thali business has been growing by nearly 20 percent annually, targets between 15,000 and 18,000 platters at its Scindia House outlet, vice-president Nair said.


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