Chinese (fact) Checkers

Prologue

Conversation overheard in Chennai, circa 2005.

3 kids.

“Dei, have you heard of China?”

“Yes da. She is a very muscular WWE wrestler da”

Matter

A few days back, while I was trying to extricate The Hindu newspaper out of several thousand ad pamphlets that come along with it nowadays, I ran into something green. With long, drooping strands of keratin. And a grin. Holding a pizza. Did I mention that Arshad Warsi was standing next to this green thing with a “Who the F is this” expression.

It wasn’t until I read the word “Chinese” written in a font made up of broken glass pieces, that I put 2 and 2 together, got 3.5, and realized that Dominos was peddling Chinese Pizzas.

Yes. Chinese Pizzas. And if there hadn’t been a Ming-era, green, droopy moustachioed man, I would never have guessed the adjective. But what really piqued me was the menu. Gobi Manchurian Pizza and Chilli Chicken Pizza. So it got me thinking about the Indian meaning of the adjective Chinese. It turns out, it is anything but…

1. Gobee Menjoorian and Chilli Chickyen are dishes from a village 5000 miles from Shanghai. In Kerala. The story is as follows. Gopakumar (alias Gobi) and Menjoo Rani, in 1960, mistakenly dropped a large amount of Monosodium Glutamate into a pan of frying Cauliflower. So they named it Gobi Menjoorian. It is not a Chinese dish.

chinakerala.jpg

2. The average Chinese does not wear colourful green robes and yell “eeeeyaah” at frequent intervals. The average Chinese today wears regular clothing and is generally busy stealing American manufacturing jobs.

3. Ok. They eat snakes. So? Nature has generally set all of us up to eat each other. So we must stop finding others’ cuisines odd and bizarre. I met a hypothetical Chinese the other day who asked me – “You peepa eata tha cow dung ash?”, and I am not the only one who likes the taste of Vibhooti.

4. Chopsuey is American. Veg Chowmein served out of ramshackle vans is Indian. Sweet Corn Soup is Indian.

Epilogue

I propose to call Indian Chinese cuisine Lungfungian, named after the soup with the coolest sounding name, served in desi Chinese restaurants.

16 Comments

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  1. You canton ly talk about my Menju Hakka like this. Solly, but such wonton nonsense is extlemely distasteful, like flied lice.
    If I see such tlash, I get as anglee like chilli noodals.
    As food, I like, like my fliend Hu, nan. To go with Gobi Menjulian.

  2. Totally unrelated but The Hindu carried an article sometime back informing readers that the ad pamphlets that were being inserted in their papers were illegal.

    I wonder what Indian food in China is…

  3. The large Chinese minorities in Cuba (and possibly other Caribbean locations) has resulted in a new cuisine: Chinolatino. The craze has spread to NYC. Just waiting for it to reach London.

  4. you mean to say it does not originate from gobichettipalayam? then, what about chowmein, yeah, tell me – you are saying chowmein is not original chinese? next you will try telling me that China is full of shops selling Schezwan sauce…

  5. Hahaha, nice post. Your comments about the perception of the “average Chinese” reminded me of a bit of dialogue from the movie “Drive”, which I have copy-pasted from IMDb here —

    Malik Brody: Funny, ’cause the image that Americans have of China is that’s it’s a country full of people with little tiny feet, and they run around and kick the shit out of each other everyday.

    Toby Wong: Well that’s the same image we have of America, except you guys have big feet and kick the shit out of each other less gracefully.

    Malik Brody: Yeah, I can see that.

  6. Apparently snakes should be just-caught and cooked over open flame and consumed immediately (attested to by Chinese friend).
    If you want to know about Indian food in China..just walk into any of the chef-from-periyakulam-run SIndian restaurants in Shanghai (for starters. Heard other cities are recruiting similar chefs for their speciality eateries.)

  7. I might be going off-topic here but I just couldn’t help thinking of the various stalls in hyd with funny names and funnier menus

    1) Sriram chainis fast food center

    2) Chikun fride rise and noodles

    3) Special ghobi munchooriya

    4) pure veag haaka noodle

    Will add more as they strike and now I’ll continue eating my barotta with some manju-rhea I made.

    PS: none of the above are typos!

  8. I remember seeing a signboard for a restaurant on the outskirts of Mysore that promised “Tandoori and Chaines” cuisine. My first thought, of course, was that they chain you to your chair and make you eat badly made palak paneer. That might have been preferable.

    One name I’ve heard for Indian Chinese is “Chowringhee Chinese”, named for the wonderful denizens of Kolkata who figured that the best way to communism’s heart is through an MSG-lined stomach. I’ve heard the occasional Bengali complain, after a trip to Shanghai, that the Chinese don’t know how to make Chinese food. Which, I suppose is right. As Chandler Bing once observed, “Out there they just call it food.”

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