If you had been sitting in the Trichy restaurant1 where Howard and I were attempting to eat on the evening of Friday the 13th2, you would have heard the following conversation.
'And to drink, sir?'
'I'll have a Limca, please.'
'Sorry sir, no Limca.'
'Do you have any Teem, then?'
'No Teem, sorry sir.'
'Do you have any lemon drinks at all?'
'Just lemon soda, sir.'
'Hmm, OK. Well, what bottled drinks do you have, then?'
'We have Limca, Teem, Coca-Cola...'
'Limca, eh? How about that. Yes, I think I'll have a Limca, please...'
'Certainly sir. With pleasure.'
It's all part of the charm of restaurants in India. Will you get what you order? Will they manage to add up the bill correctly? And will you ever find a restaurant where they have more than two menus to share between the whole restaurant? As they say round here, it's possible...
1 Incidentally, this was a restaurant where you could get that old favourite Mull, Gatwany Soup, the somewhat cannibalistic-sounding Spanish with Lamb salad, the cryptic S/C/Veg Soup, the classic Chicken Maynice, the not very popular Spetish Meat Bolles, the world-famous trio of Chicken 65, Chicken 95 and Chicken 8&8, the amazing Gobi Butt Masala, and to round it off, Venilla or Straw Burry ice cream.
Many thanks to Vijai from Kochi, who emailed me with translations for some of the above. Mull, Gatwany Soup is obviously Mulligatawny Soup, and Spetish Meat Bolles is evidently something to do with meatballs, but I'd never have worked out that S/C/Veg Soup is Sweetcorn and Vegetable Soup. As for Spanish with Lamb salad, Vijai said:
It certainly sounds ominous, and I think it's there for the exotic sound of its name; the locals don't care what's Spanish about it, they just like to see the word there.
And finally, Gobi Butt Masala elicited this response:
Gobi is cauliflower. Butt sounds like someone's idea of a stupid joke, meaning nothing in Tamil
Thanks for helping out, Vijai.
Thanks also to Vinay, who left the following information about Chicken 65 in my Guestbook:
I have two versions stories regarding the origin of Chicken 65, but the most convincing one is detailed at the end.
Story 1: The story goes that an English traveller visiting Kerala in 1965 asked a chef to make this dish. The traveller expressed his contentment at the result and left, whereupon the bar staff tried the remainders, having never seen anything like it before. The result certainly was good and Chicken 65 was born, there being no other name for it.
Story 2: As legend has it, in all the kallu (country liquor) bars, the favourite 'food fight' is: who can eat the maximum number of chillies? It is a symbol of machoism to be able to eat the most chillies. An enterprising hotelier capitalised on this and cooked up the dish Chicken 65, denoting that 65 chillies were used for every kilogram of chicken. After this there have been many variations in the preparation but I am yet to find out if there are 95 chillies in Chicken 95. If yes, I need to visit the doc tomorrow. ;-)
And for another, equally plausible explanation, my thanks to Andrew Goh, who posted the following:
I was in Madras/Madurai in and I asked the same question about Chicken 65. It is actually chicken who are reared to a maximum of 65 days before slaughtering so that the flesh is tender and sweet. Over here we call it spring chicken.
Surely one of these must be right... or maybe even all of them. This is India, after all.
2 You might think that Friday the 13th might explain events in the restaurant that night, but you'd be wrong. Every day is this weird in India...