The Indian menu is well renowned for burning a sharp hole in two things - your stomach and your spelling! The former is due to the copious spices used in these parts while the latter is a direct result of the cacography displayed in preparing the lists of dishes!
Most vernacular languages are phonetically spelled and the indigenous chefs tend to extend this system of phonography over into English as well. The results are sometimes strange, sometimes puzzling and sometimes plain nonsensical; but always hilarious!
'Chinese' has been spelt in more ways than there are people in China! 'Chineese' is the most common, followed by others like 'Chinees', Chinise', Chainees', 'Chineez' etc. I'm sure any restaurant that's got it correct, probably did so by mistake! The local variation of the "chicken and egg" problem is to decide which one had been misspelt first! The chicken often appears as 'chickin' and the egg masquerades under the noms de guerre 'egs', 'aggs' and even 'egges'!
It would take forever to list out even half the spelling errors that occur in menus in this country. However all I shall do is point out some of the funnier ones from my 12-year-old copy of a Lonely Planet guide. This book has been my faithful companion on many trips to various parts of the country in the last decade.
(The following text has been typed straight from the book and utmost caution has been taken to ensure that no typographical errors exist. Thus all spellings are as they appear in the original article.)
One of the delights of Indian menus is their amazing English. Start the morning, for example, with corn flaks, also useful for shooting down enemy aircraft. Or perhaps corn flex - Indian corn flakes are often so soggy they'll do just that.
Even before your corn-whatever you should have some tea, and what a variety of types of tea India can offer. You can try bed tea, milk tea, light tea, ready tea, mixed tea, tray tea, plain tea, half set tea and even (of course) full set tea. Eggs also offer unlimited possibilities: half-fried eggs, pouch eggs (or egg pooch), bolid eggs, scimbled eggs, skamal and egg tost, sliced omelettes, skerem boiled eggs (interesting combination there), bread omelt, or simply aggs. Finally, you could finish off breakfast with that popular Scottish dish - porge.
Soup before a meal - how about French onion soap? Or Scotch brath, mughutoni or perhaps start with parn coactale. Follow that up with some amazing interpretations of Western dishes, like the restaurant that not only had Napoleon spaghetti but also Stalin spaghetti! Perhaps a seezling plator or vegetable augrotten sounds more like it? Or simply a light meal - well, why not have a sandwitch or a vegetable pup? Feeling strong - then try a carate salad, or a vegetable cutlass.
Chickens come in for some pretty amazing treatment too, with chicken buls, bum chicken, chicken cripes, chicken manure, chicken merrylens and possibly the all time classic: chicken katan blueinside chess - no, I don't have any idea what it is either!
If you want a drink how about orange squish or that popular Indian soft drink Thumps Up.
Chinese dishes offer a whole new range of possibilities, including mashrooms and bamboo sooghts, spring rolos, American chopsy, Chinese snakes, vegetable chop off, vegetable nuddles, plane fried rice and park fried rice.
Finally for dessert you could try apple pai or banana panecake, or treat yourself to leeches and cream, or even some semenolina pudding!
Travelers have sent in lots more menu suggestions since the first edition of this book. Like tired fruit juice (tinned you know), plane tost (the stuff they serve on Indian Airlines?), omlet and began, two eggs any shape, loose curds, curds bath, tomatoe stuff, scram bled eggs, chicken poodle soup, screambled eggs, banana frilters, pain-apple cream and chocolet padding. Or something even Colonel Sanders hasn't thought of yet - fried children!
If, after having read all that you are starting to forget the correct spelling of your own name, I am not surprised!
Like I said earlier, Indian cuisine can be a tad too spicy. It's not that I don't like spicy stuff, but that more importantly - my stomach doesn't! So if I gorge myself on a nice Indian meal for dinner, I can be assured of spending half the night lying awake on my bed, tossing and turning, and the other half in the bathroom! Normally, after having eaten a couple of mouthfuls, I start popping sweat beads on my forehead and that's the sign to stop.
I remember once entering a restaurant and being promised by the waiter that they had absolutely everything on the menu. I soon found out how true his promise was - literally! There was so much on the menu that I had to ask for another cleaner one!
Don't get me wrong; it's not that I don't like Indian food. It's just that I'm not very used to it. I like tandoori chicken a lot, as also quite a few of the other chicken dishes that are not too fiery. I'm not too keen about any of the vegetarian viands on offer. In my opinion vegetarian food serves only one purpose - to fatten the cow before we can eat it! I also love the seafood available in places along the coast, especially in Goa. But I don't think I'm going to be giving up on macaroni 'n' cheese anytime soon!