Conversation overheard in Chennai, circa 2005.
“Dei, have you heard of China?”
“Yes da. She is a very muscular WWE wrestler da”
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.
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.
I propose to call Indian Chinese cuisine Lungfungian, named after the soup with the coolest sounding name, served in desi Chinese restaurants.