Of course shopping, sightseeing, commuting or simply setting out for an insignificant stroll is likely to take place in similar circumstances. However, in this land where policemen hold hands, cows sneak into weddings, clergy regularly walk the streets naked, and Bhuddist leaders announce a call to arms; and seemingly infinitely so much more…it is the restaurants I wish to discuss with you today. Recently occasions conspired to partake me in the joyous exasperation of circumnavigating much of the Indian sub-continent. Pre-departure, having already explored almost half of Australia, plenty of Europe, the U.K., and too a fair few places in the U.S.A., I’d made the effort to find out what one could, from many sources, and felt reasonably prepared for the adventure. Departing from London and pausing in Dubai, my arrival in Calcutta was early one rather green and pleasant morning. Soon, very soon, I discovered just what it means to have a boggled mind. Yes there are a great many stories many might regale you with, but over nearly 5 months eating about 400 meals in around 300 different restaurants, I began keeping a list of some of the more interesting items to be found on the often present “Westerner” menus.
To be fair, the average Indian has never been able to seriously contemplate leaving the shores of their native land, yet some wondrous creativity can and does go into trying to replicate dishes which it is most likely they’ve no first hand knowledge. Nonetheless, especially after deciphering a bewildering menu, the arrival of your chosen dish may be fairly amusing. One breakfast, a confidently delivered scrambled eggs order was (or were?) some fried eggs, sliced up into a great many very tiny pieces. Before too long it became clear to me that among most Indian restaurant managers an unwritten code requires that no spell-check shall be made.
As in establishments worldwide, simple spelling errors sometimes creep in. Items such as FISE MORNAY or FISH AND CHIPES were common offerings. Yet soon I found myself eager to enter a new eating place in the hope of finding ever more mystifying menu items, and it is my very great pleasure to be able to share some of them with you today. Be assured you don’t often need to be any Indiana Jones to try most of the following, but please, having selected your eating place (whatever the décor), never arrive over rigid with your expectations.
By Darjeeling I’d puzzled briefly over such as CHESSES TOAST, HALF MOON AMLET, MUTTON LEVER FRY, GREVI, HASH BRONS POTATO, SACNBRILD EGGS, and carefully chosen between CORNFLEX OR MUSTEY for breakfast. One of my favourites, HOTTLEMON GONGER, had me stymied for days. The later appearance of JINGER TEA shed enough light to work it out. I wonder yet about CRAMBSED CUSTARD.
“CHAINISE & ITLAN “
As in many Western nations the Chinese are catered for extensively (however seldom they put in an appearance), with the likes of CHICKEN SWEET’N’SHORE, SWEET & SHOWER VEGETABLES and CRISPY NODLES widely available. For those keener for Mediterranean cuisine, everywhere there’s PITZA, SPIGEETI, SPEAGHITY NEOPOLITAN, or even SPAGHTI BOLOGESE from which to choose, and why not a plate of ITILUN MUCKRONI, MOCAROPI WITH TOMOTO, BACEED MACRONI, the crafty MAKRAMI AGRATAM or CHEESE MOOERONI? I rather enjoyed the TAGALE TALE, yet avoided PIGZA WIT MAS ROOM.
Mayhap it might be Mexicans who ask for HOT & SOUP, peradventure the Japanese who request CHOCK LATE MILK SAKE, yet any adventurous traveler might be tempted to brave a MANGO SNAKE, the VEG MUSH BURGER, MILD SHAKE’S, FIRED EGGS, SHETTED CHICKEN WITH COUNTRY STYLE, or FULL FISH WHITE SUS GRILL. Maybe first some MASSRUM SOUP? For those keen to experiment there is GREEN PIECES, SHRIMPS MOODLES, AMERICAN HICKEN CHOPSI PAMAPLE STRIK (WITH CHISE), a PEANUTS BUTTER BURGER, or the sporty SCRUMLED EGG’S. The more timid tourist might prefer JUICE WITHOUT ADULTARLION, some fortifying TOAST WITH BUTTER & PRESERVATIVES, or stalwartly sample SPAGETTI WITH CALM SAUCE (SEASONAL). For the utterly nonchalant awaits BAKED BEENS, BAKED BINDS ON TOST, EGG BIN TOAST, BEG VEG, and a piquant supper of CHKI MOTION MUSH-VEG-EGG-FRUIT followed by MIXED FRUIT CRAPS WITH CHEESE RUM SAUCE. I safely consumed some DIGED CHICKEN, baulked at a CHICKEN LOLLY POPE, and wondered exactly which palate seeks STEAK WITH AMERICAN, FRENCH FRIED, PLAIN OMLET (WITH BRAD) or the SEMENOLIA?
In the regal if somewhat arid state of Rajasthan, which borders Pakistan, international political tensions clearly filter down to the people in the street. This evidently affects the restaurant industry, with BOILED NEWKED POTATOS, the infamous GREEN PEACE MASALA, FISH WITH TRATARE SAUCE and CARATE CAKE local menu items, (& a small footnote to “PLEASE TENDER EXCET CHANGE”). It could well be that the Kremlin makes it’s presence felt also, with RUSSIAN SALAC, RASSIAN EGG and the daunting prospect of CHICKEN STRONGNOFF to be found.
However, even a relative newcomer to India will not be long surprised to discover, after patiently decoding the sometimes lengthy menus, that at times few of the items can actually be ordered. Many restaurants have no refrigeration, the power supply is anyway notoriously unreliable, and there’s every chance you’re planning to dine while the markets are closed. One menu clearly advised that “UNAVAILABLE ITEMS WILL NOT BE SERVED”, another that “AVELABLE ITEM IS SERVICE”. One merry restaurateur served me FISH CNRRY with rice & sauce, many polite explanations, but no fish! It may well be you discover all that’s available is the SOOP, MIXUD VEGETABLE, VEGETABLE AUGROTERN, VEGEGARTON, or RICE FOODING. It actually is possible the LOBSTAR is “only tonight not available”.
Wonderfully, whilst waiting for the kitchen-boy to go shopping for the ingredients for your fare, or for your fish to be caught (which on the Gujarat coast once took 48 hours), you can most often sit back and blissedly relax. Sip your DRY FRUT JUICE, PLAIN SOAD, COCK COLA, COFFICE or SHAMPAIGN, ponder if your CHICKEN really will be GIRILED, the TOMATO actually STUTTED, listen for the ARROTS & OMONS getting truly SMASSED, contemplate the AROMA SPACIAL NON, and debate the dessert menu with your companion/s:
Do “TIT & BITS” tempt you? What is your fancy? PLANE CASTAD, PLAIN CUSTARED, FRUIT CUSTUROD, MIXED FURIT CUSTARD , or CURSTARD
Why not try “OUR CRISPY TEAT”?
Are you a fritter fan? I am, and sampled: BANANA FILTERS, BANANA FITTERS , BANANA FRILTERS, BANANA FRIETTER & APPLE FITERS Perhaps a bowl of BANANA YOGAN will be sufficient, but with or without PLAIN CRUD?
When your food finally does arrive (do take a good book), you’ll either be pleasantly chuffed, genuinely shocked or (whatever you thought you ordered), grateful to be gracefully and exquisitely satiated. Whichever outcome, finishing the meal with another glance at the menu to tot up, for yourself, the total monies owing, can be too often wise. Your “maitre de” may be capable of making either honest or disturbingly disgraceful mistakes with mathematics, yet usually surprisingly willing to correct your change. You may also read that “LOCAL TEXES ARE EXTRA”; occasionally this is well worth debating.
When you are starting to feel confident about strolling to the café around the corner, hopefully ready to enjoy the local Indian dishes on offer, be prepared for ever more fascinating footnotes. I still cherish “MOST DISHES ARE PREPARED AGAINST THE ORDER”; and one I’ll leave you too to ponder –
“PLEASE ONE HAND TAKES WILL NOT CHANGES” THANK Q. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~