by Dr. Himantha Atukorale
It is sometimes funny yet sad to see errors in menus of certain food outlets.
This is because of many reasons, including lack of knowledge of correct terms, inability to translate the names of culinary delights from foreign countries and thirdly due to pure ignorance.
I recently went through a menu from a Chinese restaurant and found a food item called “Chopsy” listed. The waiters also knew little on how this word was pronounced. There is no such food item in China by that name and the correct term was Chop Suey (pronounced Sue+ee according to web sources). And mind you there is no Chop Soy in China, although Soy products are used sometimes in the making of Chop Suey. Chop Suey is a mixture of cooked meat and vegetables in a thick sauce and originates from China.
Our hospital canteen owner takes pride in himself by printing the name “Pride” rice on his wall menu. I do not know how proud a dish of rice can be but the simple word fried is not applied in most of the canteen menus and the error is at it’s worst when the Sinhalese translation is written. There is no such dish as pride rice and if it existed there should be “Prejudice rice” as well! The reason for this error might be the near absence of the F sound in the Sinhalese vocabulary.
There is a famous American reality show on TV called Hell’s kitchen. Little does it’s producer know that in Sri Lanka, there are dishes called devil chicken, devil prawns and devil fish which might be instant hits in that TV series. How did the term devil come into place of these so called dishes? The correct word should be devilled not devil, as Satan does not play a part in the preparation of chicken, prawns or fish inside the kitchen. Devilled dishes are spicy and the term was first used in 18th century as the hot dishes resembled excessive heat in hell!
Amongst the mushrooming fast food outlets in Colombo, pizza is a favourite Italian dish. Unfortunately some of the restaurant staff does not know how to pronounce the word pizza correctly. If the letters z is replaced by s, the result would sound like ” pissa” which in Sinhalese is a term liven for a person who is insane. The correct Italian pronunciation is peet-se, although most of the western countries pronounce it as peet-za.
(Dr. Himantha Atukorale is Senior Registrar at the Ragama Hospital)