Coming To Amreeka…
Unlike the political refugees, religiously exiled, those who escaped from the deadly epidemic or bloodthirsty dictators, jumped the fences…we, the most Indian immigrants story are the same…came to America as a student, seeking job opportunity in various sectors, spouse visas, business travelers and the tourists. Thanks to all those minted degrees. We speak better English and get away with our accent most of the time. Indian children always win the spell-bee competition! In my opinion, our written English is flawless when compared to average American writing skills! The long colonial rule has made us to adapt to English as our official language. In fact, English is our common lingua franca between ourselves as we all speak diverse mother tongues.
However, we neither speak British English (as most people think) nor American English! We have our own accent ‘Indian English’. Therefore, if you are not familiar with the correct words, there may be some confusion while communicating with the natives. Sometimes, the spelling of the word could be the same but the pronunciation differs. If the person you are talking with has a hard time understanding you, you will hear phrases like ‘pardon me’, ‘come again’, ‘I didn’t get you’, ‘I am sorry’, ‘excuse me’, ‘you don’t speak English, do you?’.
First and foremost ‘we’ are referred as ‘East Indians’ or ‘Asian Indians’ and in a derogatory manner ‘dotted Indians’ (as Indian ladies happen to wear bindi on their foreheads). When they say East Indians…it doesn’t mean that you have come from Eastern part of India. They absolutely have no clue, how big is India, anyway! The Indian subcontinent lies on the eastern side of the globe/world…when Britain is taken as Center! So… ‘East Indian it is’! Generally ‘Indians’ is the word for native Americans, here. Well…we all know that Columbus was in search of India but arrived at America and he was greatly convinced that he met Indians. And so goes the story…
Culinary Vocabulary – Indian English to American English
|Brinjal||Eggplant||Unless you go to an ethnic store, its ‘eggplants’.|
|Curd||Yogurts||No one understands what curd means…the good part is they have a varieties of yogurts, with lots of flavors, with and without fat, etc. You should look for ‘plain yogurt’ for Indian cooking.|
|Wash up||Do the dishes||Cleaning the dishes is ‘doing the dishes’, here.|
|Wash your hands||Wash up||Refresh yourself is a sublime term to go wash your face and hands.|
|Small pastries||Finger food||The portion we serve up on our plate meals is also sometimes, mentioned as finger food! They actually serve more of just 2-3 items (carb, protein, veggies).|
|French beans||Snow peas||Even though its obvious, when you spot them in the store, they aren’t that tasty anyway.|
|Cafe (Kayf)||Cafe (Kafay)||Pronunciation difference, Americans pronounce the French terms like a real French-man.|
|Coriander leaves||Cilantro||I have seen in Food network (TV channel) people say coriander powder. But when it comes to leaves…its cilantro!!!|
|Lady’s Finger||Okra||Oh man, you don’t want to say it loud!|
|Capsicum||Bell Peppers||Hey, we are actually using a Botanical name.|
|Pulses||Lentils||They don’t know how many varieties we have. Better, don’t bother.|
|Legumes||Beans||Yes, beans is the term for most of the legumes.|
|Chick peas||Garbanzos||I think they are talking in Spanish.|
|Sooji or Rawa||Semolina, cream of wheat||The Ethiopian ‘cous cous’ is much like our semolina. Sometimes, I mention it as ‘Indian cous cous’ to my American friends.
|Sago or Sabudana||Tapioca||They haven’t seen anything like our sago. So, no specific term for this.|
|Non-Veg||Meat and Seafood||Okay, as soon as you leave India, forget this term. Being a ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ is a lifestyle choice here. Its a meat nation in my opinion.|
|Sweets||Candy||Yes, invariably all our Indian sweets are simply referred as candies.|
|Desserts or Sweets||Desserts (disserts)
||Pronounce it much like ‘disserts’ not ‘desert’. If not, be ready for a quick English class!|
|Biscuits||Cookies||Maybe you are told this number of times by your friends and relatives who already live here. Let me just refresh your memory.
|Starters||Appetizers||Hmmm, appetizers makes sense after all.|
|Jelly||Jell-o||If you are saying ‘Jelly’ its a kind of fish found in the sea. Its jell-o.|
|Ice fruit||Popsicle||Popsicle is nice to say after all.|
|Bill (at restaurants)||Check (at restaurants)||Indeed its very important to understand this term. Useful most of the time. If you say ‘bill’ you will confuse the clerk! Bill is for currency here.|
|Beans||Greens beans||We won’t have to mention ‘string-less beans’ or ‘string beans’ anymore…most of time its just one variety that hits the market.|
|Board beans||Lima beans||Its nice to know this term, you may want to cook it!|
|Forks and Knives||Silverware||Its silverware, regardless of the material used to make it (brass, stainless steal, plastic)!!!
|Steal plates||Metal plates||You will hardly notice any. Its only used in prison by the inmates.
|Ceramic wares||China||Yes, its simply ‘China’ not even ‘China dish or China cup’! As they are the prime exporters.|
|Take-away||Take-out||Take out meal is usually associated with Chinese food.|
|Corn flour||Corn starch||They have too many items processed from corn, like corn meal, batter, self-rising flour etc.|
|Maida||All purpose flour||They use it in most of their dishes.|
|Atta (Wheat flour)||Wheat flour||Probably you knew this already, bleached is extra fine, fortified is vitamins enriched and whole wheat flour is coarse flour with husk in it.|
|Icing sugar||Confectioner’s sugar||Powdered sugar is always confectioner’s sugar. You wouldn’t miss it on the aisle, anyway.|
||Pronounced much like ‘Sorbe’ with ‘t’ silence.|
|Dry grapes||Raisins||Sun-dried raisins. No more kismis and sultanas.|
|Spring onions||Green onions||Spring onions have even bigger bulb than green onions. And do not confuse yourself with leeks (yet another variety of onion leaves found, here).|
|Ground nuts||Peanuts||Probably no one will understand you, if you say ‘ground nuts’. Yes, they are peanuts here.|
|Milk||Cream||Cream, creamer is the term for milk.|
|Tetra pack milk||Half and Half||Reduced milk is called half and half. You may want to know this, if you are a coffee aficionado like me.|
|Ice tea||Sweet tea||Its so hard to get rid of my habits, I always pause for a minute before I say ‘Sweet tea, please’.|
|With or without milk?||Black or White? (in context to coffee)||Don’t look annoyed, if they ask you this question in the restaurants or in office…they are asking you, how do you want your coffee.|
|Salt biscuits, tea time biscuits||Crackers||If it is not too sugary, it crackers.|
|Chocolates or Toffees||Hard candies||Did you know, ‘candy’ is the word came from an Indian word ‘Kandu‘ (sugar-lump). India is the first country to invent sugar from cane-sugar.|
|Chocolate||Chocolate bars||Chocolate is always associated with chocolate bars. As small toffees are called candies here.|
|Beet root||Beets||They simply don’t use the word ‘roots’ for many vegetables.|
|Tissue paper||Napkin, Kitchen Towels, Paper towels||Don’t use the term ‘Tissue paper’ in the kitchen or in the restaurants. Its the term they use for toiler papers, tissue rolls. So, its napkins or kitchen towels here.|
|Beef||Steak, sirloin, brisket, ribs, hamburger||When it comes to beef, they don’t refer to the meat itself but to a cut of it. Thus you can have a pork steak or a salmon steak, as well as one cut from beef. Pull yourself together, they have a huge collection of beef here.
|Pork||Ham, bacon, chops, lions, sausages etc||The meat itself is called pork but if you want to explore various cuts…look at the butcher’s chart list in the market or get a nice cook book.
|Goat meat (Mutton)||Lamb (sheep meat is mutton)||I know, they both are entirely different. Goat meat is something frowned upon. Its like saying ‘dog meat’. Guess, black Americans were the ones who ate goat back in olden days and its often associated with slavery. So, no one eats them here. You can shop them only in a middle-east or any other ethnic market.|
|Ground meat||Minced meat||Usually minced meat is of goat’s meat in India, here its turkey!!!…Get a grip.
|Hard drinks||Whiskey||Be specific.|
|Vodka||Vodka (vaad – ca)||Pronounced as ‘vaad-ca’.|
|Lemon juice||Lemonade||Lemonade comes in pet-jars.|
|Tin Beer||Six pack||It comes in a fancy six-pack, so it is cut short saying just ‘six pack’. Do not confuse it with body builder’s six packs, okay.|
|Raw Plantain||Green Plantain||Its again another Mexican vegetable.|
|Chow Chow / Bangalore Brinjal||Chayote||Its a Mexican vegetable here. And ‘Chow’ means “to eat’, specially they say ‘chow’ for dog foods!!!|
|Milk Powder||Skim Milk||Its obvious, this is the right term to use.|
|Country Chicken||Hen, Cage-free Chicken||They have absolutely no idea, what a free-range chicken is. Hell with industrial farming!|
|Prawn||Shrimps||Of course there are varieties of prawns, but its just ‘shrimps’ here. Fresh, frozen, Shelled, cooked etc. And cooked is something not a dish of ‘ready to eat’, its shelled, boiled and then packed-frozen shrimps.|
|Groundnut oil||Peanut oil||They will have a hard time understanding you, if you say ‘groundnut oil’!|
|Green chilies||Chili Peppers||As I told you before. We gave suffix to most of the chili varieties by color and texture.|
|Jug||Pitcher||Pitcher is the correct term for a Jug.|
|Tumbler||Glass||Invariably everything is called glass, even though its made of ceramic or plastic. Tumbler could be a right term, the one which tumbles…anyway.|
|Coffee cup or Tea cup||Drinking mug||Mug will do, they will get it!|
|Grill||Broil||Many would understand, what you mean. No worries.|
|Deep fried||Fried||Fried always signifies ‘deep-fried’. In Southern parts of America, most of the dishes are deep-fried.
|Kadai or Karahi||Wok||Yes, wok is the correct term for our round-bottomed cookware.|
|Tablespoon||Serving ladles||They say ladles for table spoon, as tablespoon is used for the measuring purpose in the kitchen.|
|Mess||Dorm Cafeteria||I know, you figured it out already. We all do, don’t we.|
|Rug or Tea cloth||Dish Towel||Dish cloth is the term for kitchen towels.|
|Tin (food)||Can||Canned food is the term for most of the tinned products.|
|Carry bag||Shopping bag||Well, you don’t have to actually carry them for shopping, but just in case if you wanna know…its ‘shopping bag’.|
|Vegetable shop||Grocery shop||Everything is in the grocery stores, because its always some super-store…not like in India, where you step out just for ‘chilies’ and ‘curry leaves’!|
|Dust bin or garbage||Trash||Just trash will do.|
|Wash counter||Basin||Although you will never notice a wash counter separately near the dining room or in the restaurants, you can excuse yourself to the restrooms (a.k.a. toilets in India).
|Soup||Clear soup, cream soup, pottage, gumbo||It depends what type of soup you prefer.|
|Omlette||Omelet||The spelling differs. Its generally easy to follow, though!|
|Naan||Naan bread||Yes, they keep saying that, no matter how many times we correct them! Okay, its their country!|
|Indian tea||Chai tea||They are actually saying it ‘tea-tea’, its funny to watch.
|Chappathi, Roti,||Flat Breads||Flat breads is the term used for most of our roti varieties.|
|Shallow fried||Pan fried||Sometimes, it is also braised. Unless you are talking to a gourmand, its plain ‘pan fried’.|
|Tawa||Griddle||Griddle cakes, Pancakes are the terms used for the food, that was toasted on a tawa.|
|Vessels (Cooking Utensils)||Crockery, Crock-pot||Vessel is something that is sent to space.
|Bun||Biscuit||On a breakfast or dinner menu, you may want to order it. If you think its Indian-biscuit. Then you will miss a perfect dish!
|Chewing gum||Gum||If you are wondering what would they call ‘gum’, it is called ‘glue’ here.|
|Tap||Faucet||Tap is for tapping a telephone conversation. So, faucet it is.
|Black pepper||Peppercorns||Other than our black peppers, many varieties of chilies came to India after the discovery of America. So, we just added a suffix to them saying ‘green, red, dry’.|
|Maize||Corn||We are talking in British English.|
|Leafy vegetables||Greens||Palak is spinach, I guess you already knew that. Otherwise none of our greens show up here in their market.|
||But pronounced as ‘Vaitamin’.
|Semi-cook||Raw, Medium, Rare||…are the words used for meat. It means, how you want your meat to be done.|
|White rice||Rice||Rice is bit rarity here, they hardly serve up the quantity that we do in India. So, no specifications required.|
|Plain water||Water||No ice, please.
|Drinks with ice||On the rocks||We don’t have to complicate things saying ‘with’ and without’ here.|
|Disposable plates||Paper plates||Just paper-plates will do. If we say ‘disposable’ they will think something Eco-friendly or biodegradable etc. Although that’s the idea, hehe.|
|Use and throw – forks and knives||Plastic forks||I once confused the waitress, here.|
|Canteen||Cafeteria||I suppose…as soon as you arrived, you will figure it out. No dictionary required for this!|
|Brim full, loaded, stomach full (eating context)||Stuffed||I have eaten more is ‘Stuffed’ here. While we used to say ‘stomach full’ or ‘brim full’.|
|Preparing a meal/ Prepared a dish||Fixing a dish, fixed dinner||Although they will understand you. Fixed or fixing a meal is more likely used.|
|Brown bread||Whole wheat bread||They have a huge varieties of bread, so be specific.|
|Cool drinks or Soft drinks||Soda||Its just soda. No worries they will give you ‘well-chilled’.|
|Finger chips||French fries||For a brief period it was also called ‘freedom fries’, when France & America had a cold war!|
|Filter coffee||Brewed coffee||That’s the only coffee they make, instant coffee is hardly in use. Remember coffee is always just coffee decoction, without cream (milk).|
|Hotel||Restaurant||Hotel / Motel is for just staying and restaurant is for eating.
|Spice powder||Curry||Any spice blend from India is invariably referred as ‘curry’.
|Mixie||Blender||They will never get a clue, if you keep saying ‘mixie’! Mixer is the term they often use for wine-mixing! So, blender it is.|
|Grinder||Food processor (maybe)||There is no such thing as our ‘Indian wet-grinder’ here. I use blender for making batter. They have cake mixers and food processors for various purpose, if you are interested.|
|Soda||Club soda||Alright, this ‘soda’ is called club soda.|
|Tomato sauce||Ketchup||Tomato sauce is less sweet, comes in a can for cooking.|
|Sugar-free||Artificial sweetener||They will be wondering ‘what is sugar-free’ means and might trick you saying there are many items without sugar!!!|
||Rolling pin is used to flatten the dough.|
|Chopper||Food processor / chopping board||Chopper means helicopter.|
|Frying with little oil||Stir-fried or saute (sautay)||Saute is a French word, again you will have to pronounce it ‘sautay’.
|Thinly sliced, matchsticks cutting||Julienne||The thin cuts of vegetables like chilies, ginger and carrots ‘julienne’. Again another French culinary term.|
|Chicken wings||Buffalo wings||Of course buffaloes don’t have wings, this chicken wings dish was first created in Buffalo (name of place) near New York.|
|Sweet potatoes||Yams, Louisiana yams||And don’t ask me, what would they call the ‘yams’ then! They don’t have any yams in their country.|
|Fast food||Fast food Chain, Fast food joints||Chain of stores…you may spot the same name like McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell in every village, town, city you go in America.|
|Chicken leg piece||Drumsticks||Chicken drumsticks, as it looks like one.|
|Drumsticks (vegetable)||No word for this vegetable, its not found in America.||Drumsticks is usually chicken leg piece or actual drum sticks (music instrument).|
|Main course||Entree||Pronounced in French.|
|Doggie bag (in restaurants)||Take out box||Don’t expect them to pack you with your left overs, they usually give you the box, unless you are dining in an upscale restaurant.|
|Family room or private room (restaurants)||Booth||You will scare the hell out of the waitress here, if you mention ‘I want a family room’ ! So, please refrain from saying it!
|Coca cola||Coke||Coke, Diet coke will do.|
|Pot (cooking vessel)||Pot (?)||Pot, pot head means drug and the drug abuser, respectively.|
|Fish fillets||Fillets (filay)||Pronunciation difference. Be easy on your tongue.|
|Butter||Butter (butta)||You don’t have to stress ‘r’ and ‘t’ anymore!|
|Curry, Gravy etc||Curry||‘Curry’ is the term used for most of our Indian dishes, invariably of it nature, texture and cooking methods. Can’t help it folks, get over it!|
|Turmeric (tarmaric)||Turmeric (tur-meric)||Just pronounce it in their way, even though it is native to India!
|Hot||Warm||Something that is hot (in temperature) is warm.|
|Spicy and Lot of chilies.||Hot||Chili’s heat is always ‘Hot’. Don’t confuse it with temperature.|