Coping with Chillies

Let’s face it, in the Western World, our idea of spicy is a pizza with a few jalapenos on top. Many people visiting Thailand, or trying authentic Thai food for the first time, often encounter the burning mouth, running nose and numb lips, that only a really spicy dish can cause. So how do we go about enjoying Thai food without this risk?

The simplest way, yet not the best way, is simply to ask for dishes to be prepared without too much chilli. Asking for a dish to be made “Mai Phet” or not hot, is the way to achieve this. However, if you do this, you are missing the true Thai taste, and eating a dish which is a shadow of its proper flavour.

Now I will teach you a little secret I have discovered over the past 5 years living in Thailand. The Thai people cheat when it comes to spicy food. They know for a fact that certain things like sugar will kill the burning chilli sensation dead, whilst leaving the taste intact. Watch a Thai person putting condiments into noodle soup, in goes a spoonful of sugar for every spoonful of dried chilli. In a similar fashion, several types of vegetable leaves can have the same effect such as peppermint.

Hands down the best way to cope with spicy food is to get used to it. I still remember how it used to feel when I could not eat the dishes I ordered. Fortunately a tolerance for chilli is very quick to build up. Persevere, eat food as spicy as you can handle, and then increase the heat over a period of time. Trust me on this, I now eat food spicier than most Thai people can handle, and have been for quite some time.

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