by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2009/06/12 09:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2009/06/12/9729466.aspx
I love my Thai food very spicy.
I don't have the same issues that Margaret Cho has with spicy food (ref: her Blog, in particular The Hotness), though I think that is because my body does not object to the food quite as strongly, or as loudly!
Anyway, after being in Thailand many years ago and using the above phrase (it sounds kind of like tum hi pet mahk and is one of the few Thai phrases that stuck with me, albeit with my bad pronunciation)....
I would go in to most Thai food restaurants in the US and since the phrase never worked even when I was with people who were Thai and ordered in Thai I assumed that the combination of my white face and bad pronunciation just made them play it safe. I assumed that either food as hot as one found in Thailand, or even on the same order of magnitude as hot, was simply unavailable to me due to the well meaning interference of strangers making me food for money.
Four star, five star, six star, ten star -- more often than not this just mediated how many red pepper flakes they put in the food.
And no offense to any red peppers that might be reading this, but they just don't have the punch.
Recently I finally found out the magic words for when I am here (since even ทำไห้เผ็ดมาก wasn't cutting it), and I wish I had been smart enough to look with a Google^G^G^G^G^GBing search long ago).
The phrase is Thai Spicy.
You tell the waitress "I want it to be six stars, I want Thai Spicy," and then wait.
Like a lover into sex games unsure whether she had been told the safe words, she will want to verify that you meant what you just said.
You can throw in a "like I was in Thailand" to your affirmation, or just nod sagely.
Either way, you can almost imagine them pulling out the other spice. The one treated the same way as the Novantrone that they used to infuse into me but not after being double gloved before they'd even handle the infusion bag, abiding by maximum sharps precautions.
Perhaps I am imagining that part, but I usually can spot the server waiting to watch me take a bite so they can see if I really meant it....
And at the Typhoon! station in the Microsoft Building 9 cafeteria, where they have occasionally piled the red pepper flakes on so thick that one lunchmare asked me is I wanted any chicken with my red pepper flakes , where they started putting them underneath the food instead of on top of it since it was making people unhappy to see it?
There, they can't do Thai Spicy. When I ordered it the first time, they were so apologetic: "we don't have the spices here" they would tell me, unhappy enough that from then on I would order it "five stars, really five stars not Microsoft five stars, as close to Thai Spicy as you can get here" and they would smile and nod and do the best they can with enough red pepper flakes to choke someone not expecting 'em.
At the Thai food restaurants that accept the Thai Spicy instruction, is it as hot as it was in Thailand?
Who knows? That was years ago and miles away, and memories fade.
I think it is on the same order of magnitude.
The phrase doesn't work for Chinese food (which has never been as spicy for me, even in China or Taiwan or Hong Kong). I don't know what phrase to use here to get it spiciest, though.
And the phrase doesn't work for Indian food (which has been even spicier in India but never even close in the US, no matter how I order it). I don't know that phrase, either. And that one probably would scare me a bit even if I did know it. I'll be cautious on that one if I find out what it is. :-)
Too bad I can't just tell them to make it "Thai Spicy", since that may be as hot as I can take my Indian food, too! :-)
This blog brought to you by ท (U+0e17, aka THAI CHARACTER THO THAHAN)
# KodefuGuru on 12 Jun 2009 10:32 AM:
If you want spicy Chinese food, you've got to get authentic Sichuan. If it's not spicy, you're probably getting it Cantonese style.
# John Cowan on 12 Jun 2009 4:11 PM:
What is this obsession people have with putting painful objects into their mouths? Is it a rebellion against Mom (or Granpa) telling you no, you mustn't eat batteries or stick the scissors into your soft palate? This seems a conspicuously dimwitted sort of self-destructive behavior, like cutting your wrists -- where's the fun in that?
My approach is simple: I eat a little bit of things. If my mouth hurts, I take steps and then don't eat whatever it was any more.
# Alex O. on 12 Jun 2009 10:04 PM:
Man, I am with you on that!
My wife and I love Thai and Indian cuisine (cook it at home very often).
Funny, I use a variation of the "magic" phrase - I usually request my meal "Thai Hot" and add "don't be afraid to hurt me". It mostly works, if the chef knows his stuff.
I always look up Thai restaurants in every major city I visit. So far, my three most favorite Thai restaurants are in Springfield, IL, in Tulsa, OK and in Nashville, TN.
Happy dining. :)
# Andrew on 14 Jun 2009 9:06 PM:
For Chinese, maybe try a restaurant that specialises in Sichuan cuisine. Should be something appropriate on the menu, esp if they cater for international students.
Or a restaurant that specialises in noodles and dumplings and allows the customers to put on their own chilli oil/flakes
# Devlinb on 15 Jun 2009 9:51 PM:
The lack of spicy food on campus is quite sad. :( Although I cannot handle anything nearly as tough as you, I still find the lack of spices around here rather disappointing.
I am even more puzzled by the Indian restaurants not offering really spicy dishes.
Michael Morton on 16 Jun 2009 3:16 PM:
There's a big difference between "spicy to make it hot" and "hot as a result of being spicy". Bad restaurants will just add spice to make it hot ... but with no additional flavor, or even worse flavor. Good restaurants will add lots of spices, which do in fact make it hot, but the flavor is so much richer. That flavor is worth a little bit of sweat.
GordonSchumacher on 1 Jul 2009 10:31 PM:
"Bad restaurants will just add spice to make it hot..."
Indeed - I used to work at Seagate, and they had an annual salsa competition. In the "super-hot" category, most of the entrants provided exactly that - a salsa recipe that would probably have been good at "medium", but at "super-hot" was bland. The two exceptions stood out - one was made by an Indian fellow, and was really a chutney (but was excellent); the other had properly adjusted the spices such that the flavours and the heat complemented each other very nicely.
I still wish I could get a habañero salsa that used peach or apricot as a major component; sooner or later, I'll have to make some myself...
Thai Person on 24 Jul 2009 1:16 AM:
I'm glad you like Thai food, though you mispelled the phrase a bit. It should be ทำให้เผ็ดมาก not ทำไห้เผ็ดมาก.
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