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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Make It Actually, Really Hot, Please

Posted by on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Did you see last week's illustrated comment—comment 4 on Dominic Holden's review of Naam Thai in Madrona?

  • Greg Stump

(The food writer mentioned is Jonathan Gold.)

Christopher Pickert saw last week's illustrated comment, and he made one of those cards for you.


It says:

Hello. Never mind that I'm not Thai—please make the food as hot as I ask for. I want to eat Thai food with the rich flavors from real herbs and spices that Thai people enjoy. Thank you!

Also, if I order Phad Thai, please make it with tamarind, not with ketchup.

Mr. Pickert, you are a hero.

And Stranger readers are the best.


Comments (51) RSS

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Posted by STJA on January 20, 2010 at 11:20 AM · Report this
This card will help them remember to make your Phad Thai with tamarind and a nice loogie.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 20, 2010 at 11:22 AM · Report this
Actually, it says:

Hello. Because I'm a hipster American, my demands are impossible to satisfy. I want to eat Thai food that exactly matches my idea of what Thai people eat, regardless of what the professional cooks in your kitchen say. I see the chillies here on the table, but I'm incapable of applying them to my own dish.

Also, I think your English sucks and you can't understand me no matter how loudly I speak, so I copied this card off the Internet.
Posted by shabadoo on January 20, 2010 at 11:24 AM · Report this
HelpMeJebus 4
@3 is obviously a total pussy who doesn't understand just how dumbed down most spicy food is when served to Americans.

Any chance of getting that card in vector format so it will print better? EPS or PDF plz.
Posted by HelpMeJebus on January 20, 2010 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Collin 5
What's funny is that in Thailand, most Thai dishes come with little or no heat, but always come with a condiment tray in which the diner adds their own dried chilies. If you ask for it "The Way Real Thai People" eat it, you're making an even greater ass of yourself.
Posted by Collin on January 20, 2010 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Shelby 6
Does this qualify for
Posted by Shelby on January 20, 2010 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Farley Granger 7
I'm on board with #3 - except he left off the "please insert whatever foulness you desire my wanker lips to wrap themselves around and swallow."

If you worked your way into having a food business in another country and some snotty customer came it with a card that read: "Hey Yall, please for real make my food as salty and greasy as I want it. Pepcid AC style. And, if I order the macaroni and cheese, please do not use actual cheese but a combo of half n' half and velveeta." Wouldn't you read between the lines a little?
Posted by Farley Granger on January 20, 2010 at 12:01 PM · Report this
By the way, it's amazing the things you can taste when you don't smoke cigarettes and therefore don't need to pour tabasco sauce on everything you eat.
Posted by datajunkie on January 20, 2010 at 12:07 PM · Report this
I have to agree with most of the posters here. This will just make you look like a pretentious jackass who's trying to look smart . Please, please don't use this card! Every Thai restaurant in Seattle to which I've been will gladly bring you, as @5 says, chilies for condiments if things aren't hot enough.
Posted by Dexter St. Clair on January 20, 2010 at 12:08 PM · Report this
The people on old Chowhound board, who were for the most part not pretentious hipsters but regular folks who would search out hard-to-find good food, used to have a version of this card printed in about 7 different languages. I have no idea if it stayed after they were absorbed into the Chow magazine.
Posted by boyasunder on January 20, 2010 at 12:14 PM · Report this
sirkowski 11
This reminds me the last time I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant.

There was some type of fried pig skin on the menu, forgot the name. We asked the waiter what it was and we ordered it. The waiter came back and told us, "this is a typical Vietnamese dish, are you sure you want to order this?"

Well, ya! We're at a Viet restaurant, I'm not here to eat a Big Mac. And if it tasted like shit, it would hopefully would not be on the menu, right? It's obvious the staff was worried non-Viets wouldn't appreciate. While I understand that some clients can be difficult, I was a little bit insulted nonetheless. And it was delicious.
Posted by sirkowski on January 20, 2010 at 12:18 PM · Report this
I was in Oslo, Norway and told to go to "a new Mexican restaurant, it's the best thing in town!" Suspicious, we went. Based on prior experience with Norwegian tastes regarding spicing, (seriously, they consider boiled potatoes hot) when asked how hot I wanted my burrito I replied "Hot. Really, really, nuclear hot." A few minutes later it showed up: a burrito, buried deep under a mountain of chopped chiles. At least half the plate was chiles. I smiled, thanked the waitress, took a big forkfull and began work. Near tears my friend and I looked at each other, muttering: "Mustn' front of the Norwegians." Be careful what you wish for, dinner can become a dare pretty quickly.
Posted by Yes, yes they're also big on Dill and Caraway. Yawn. on January 20, 2010 at 12:20 PM · Report this
@5 (Collin), that is simply not true. It depends on where you are, and what kind of food you are eating. There are plenty of dishes, especially in the north, that will obliterate your taste buds in a searing inferno of chile without having to add anything at all at the table.
Posted by N8C on January 20, 2010 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Hernandez 14
@6 I'd say yes.

@8 What does that have to do with anything?
Posted by Hernandez on January 20, 2010 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Andy_Squirrel 15
what I don't get is if you like the spicy sauce so much, why not just drink it? why bother putting it on noodles?

The real reason people love spicy foods is because they have no taste-buds......its akin to a deaf & blind person listening to speed metal while inches away from a 30inch speaker & getting punched in the face by the lead singer. ROARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
I understand, you gotta do what you gotta do to have flavor......but please do it with your own sauce....some of us aren't deaf & blind
Posted by Andy_Squirrel on January 20, 2010 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Believe it or not, some Thai people and other Asians don't like spicy food and don't make spicy food. And yes, some of them cook with ketchup. If you want more flavorful food, go to a different restaurant, not a family restaurant in freaking Madrona. You might as well print of a copy of that card in Spanish and take it to Azteca.
Posted by asians are people on January 20, 2010 at 12:56 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 17
I just ask them for a plate of hot spices to add myself.

That works way better.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 20, 2010 at 1:03 PM · Report this
More, I Say! 18
That's HELLA dumb, Andy Squirrel. I have taste buds, I can actually taste all the flavors (!) but I loooooove spicy, and I attribute that to being raised on a diet of Filipino grub and kimchi as a child.

...But yeah, I hate it when my food gets 'whitewashed.' Especially when the "spicy" dish comes back completely mild, and then the waitress comes back to make sure it's not too spicy.
Posted by More, I Say! on January 20, 2010 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 19
I like my food pretty spicy... I don't make a big deal out of ordering it that way (usually just say "can I have that extra spicy, please" or something). But, I always have trouble with this in new restaurants where I don't know their frame of reference. "Extra spicy" can get you anywhere from "I can't even taste the spice" to "So hot I can't eat it" (the latter has really only happened to me once or twice, but it sucks when it does).

I don't like to go around asking for the nuclear option, because as @12 says, sometimes they give it to you, and that's definitely worse than food that's too bland. So, usually my food winds up being less spicy then I like. Life goes on.
Posted by Julie in Eugene on January 20, 2010 at 1:06 PM · Report this
#15: It doesn't really have anything to do with that. There are two main factors that have to do with who eats spicy foods:

1) People who like spicy foods tend to seek more sensory stimulation and participate in more thrill-seeking behaviors. People who like bland food tend to like staying at home and being in quiet settings.

2) The most important cause of who likes spicy foods is previous exposure to spicy foods. A lot of white Americans just haven't eaten a lot of spicy foods, so they're averse to it, just like any new tastes: beer, raw vegetables, etc.
Posted by i studied this on January 20, 2010 at 1:08 PM · Report this
@15 Pussy Alert!
Posted by Fred Duncan on January 20, 2010 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Hernandez 22
@15 Uh...I like spicy food because that's what I grew up with and I continue to enjoy it. I'm sure that many other people whose families come from countries and cultures that feature a lot of spice in their cuisine feel the same way. I didn't grow up with a lot of sweets and thus never developed a taste for sweet foods - if you don't like spicy, it's not necessarily because everyone who does has no taste buds.
Posted by Hernandez on January 20, 2010 at 1:10 PM · Report this
kid icarus 23
Jesus whiners it's called Sriracha. Invest in a bottle.
Posted by kid icarus on January 20, 2010 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Hey Idiot!
Most traditional Thai food is not served spicy and particularly Phad Thai which is not very popular in Thailand.
Sort of like the review I read when someone was angry that their pho beef was rare and bitched at the waiter before sending it back without thinking to just dip the meat in the boiling hot broth to cook it instantly. Most people want their pho beef rare and most Thai people add spicyness to taste so don't be bitching about wanting it traditionally hot!
Posted by Jesus F'ing Christ on January 20, 2010 at 1:23 PM · Report this
michael strangeways 25
how about a note that just says, "Please be consistent with your Spice Rating System!"

I'm looking at you, Jamjuree...sometimes the "3" is perfect, sometimes it scalds and sometimes it's as limp as grandad's dick...
Posted by michael strangeways on January 20, 2010 at 1:31 PM · Report this
michael strangeways 26
I do agree the note seems a bit patronizing but it can be annoying when ethnic restaurants dumb down the food for my youth, I worked in an Asian restaurant (Chinese owned/Chinese food downstairs and Japanese food upstairs/staff of ALL nationalities) and like many Asian restaurants, the staff got a free meal at the end of the night...the "real" food they made the staff was waaaaaaay better than the traditional crap they served to their customers. I asked them why they didn't have some of the good food on the menu and they would just shrug and say, no one would order it...
Posted by michael strangeways on January 20, 2010 at 1:36 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 27

I love spicy food and bland, whitey food like vanilla ice cream. Speak for yourself if your taste buds are so fragile, you can't handle a little heat.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 20, 2010 at 1:38 PM · Report this
I base my spice request on the clientele and the area. If the restaurant is in the suburbs and there are a lot of "white, family-types" around, I ask for 5 stars or as spicy as they can make it. Thai curry isn't Thai curry without the right heat, and some days you feel like crying from the oh-so-good spiciness. If I'm in the city and see a lot of other Asians (half Korean here), then I'll be more modest with a 3 or 4. Also, I ATE food in Thailand from places the locals ate at, and there were some dishes spicy enough to make my Texan friends cry for their mommies. Meanwhile, Thai food from Okinawa was very mild in comparison.

As far as those claiming you can spice your food with table chilis - that only works so far. Any spice connoisseur can tell you that you get huge differences based on what type of spice (jalapenos vs. serranos vs. bird's eye), how that spice is prepared (oil, vinegar, salted, cooked), and how it is added to food (hot wok, simmered, tossed on top). If you think that Sriracha is the pinnacle of Thai spice, you're missing out, and I would never add that to curry.

There is a wide variety in "traditional" Thai food because it varies based on region (, and the Thai taste profile focuses on a balance of salty, spicy, sweet, and sour. For the record, I regularly cook using Korean and Thai spice combinations, and am teaching myself Indian as well.

After reading the review, I wanted to try Naam Thai for curiosity's sake, but I'm happy with my current haunts because they have a good spice spectrum for me.
Posted by MemeGene on January 20, 2010 at 1:47 PM · Report this
Fnarf 29
@15, a taste for chile doesn't mean you have no taste buds; it means you have a taste for chile. You acclimate yourself (and you also get an endorphin high). The more chile you eat, the more you can stand. It doesn't affect your ability to taste other foods at all. In fact, chiles have as many varied different tastes as any food on earth. Hot little bird peppers taste nothing like Sriracha sauce, which tastes nothing like jalepeños, which taste nothing like habañeros, the best, deepest, warmest and also the hottest, of all. The Maya eat 'em like popcorn; I can get partway into one raw, but LOVE a good green habañero sauce, where it's a game to see how hot you can go. Start with three drops on a chip, see if you can go to ten. The flavor is incredible.
Posted by Fnarf on January 20, 2010 at 1:52 PM · Report this
Fnarf - so I'm not the only one who gets a high eating Thai spice then? I feel like such a junkie when I make curry after a bad day to make myself feel better, and my friends think it's hilarious. The weird thing is that I get the best high from Thai chilis; Korean and others don't do nearly as well.

Add me to the people pointing out that a taste for spice doesn't mean you can't appreciate non-spicy foods. I love good vanilla bean ice cream and caprese (tomato + fresh mozzarella) salad, and can't eat sulfured dried mangoes because they taste funny to me. I've cooked everything from poached fish to alfredo pasta to pilafs and braised greens - none of those were spicy, though I often use a shake of cayenne to warm the flavor a bit (dark greens and seafood love a little heat). Honestly, eating processed foods will kill your taste more than homecooked spicy foods because of all the artificial flavorings, salt and fat spoiling your taste buds.
Posted by MemeGene on January 20, 2010 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Hernandez 31
@30 I also occasionally love the high of eating a very spicy dish, whether it's curry so hot that I sweat or pho doctored up to the point that I feel like I'm about to hallucinate. It's not something I'd do every day (not even close), but every once in a while it's a really fun, deeply satisfying experience.
Posted by Hernandez on January 20, 2010 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 32
almost any thai dish you eat in America has way more meat and way less veggies than over there.

you spice the meat, actually.

stop eating like an American and get it made right.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 20, 2010 at 2:53 PM · Report this
HelpMeJebus 33
I love reading the comments written by pretentious Seattle hipsters accusing people who want authentic ethnic food of being pretentious hipsters. That's just fucking fantastic.

Note to the self-appointed "experts" on Thai food saying it's not spicy: you're retards.

Firstly, generalizing an entire nation's cuisine is stupid. You might as well say American food is bland - which might be true for certain regions of the country, but is certainly not true for barbecue or Cajun cuisine. Secondly, Issan cuisine (from the Issan region of Thailand) is some of the spiciest food on the planet.

Being knowledgeable doesn't make you pretentious, but making snide comments about people who bother to learn something about other cultures sure as hell is.
Posted by HelpMeJebus on January 20, 2010 at 2:58 PM · Report this
Wow, this really brought out the pretentious in everyone.

People who spend a lot of effort into making themselves withstand the spiciest food they can really bore me.
Posted by dwight moody on January 20, 2010 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Timmytee 35
Fnarf and others: Anyone remember the Simpsons episode (season 8, maybe?) where Homer eats Chief Wiggum's "Guatemalan Suicide Chili" and then trips out for the rest of the story? One of my favorites. There's lots of cool "psychedelic" animation, and Johnny Cash is the voice of Coyote.
Posted by Timmytee on January 20, 2010 at 3:14 PM · Report this
I would just like to point out that the "spice" from a chili is due to Capsicum and the reason it tastes "hot" is because it's tricking your heat receptors into activating at a lower temperature than normal, thus causing your nervous system to think there is "heat" being applied to that part of your body. Just like any sensation, if you experience it too often and in too high of doses, you will eventually grow accustomed to it and need more stimulus in order to get the same response. Therefore, people who like their food extra spicy (at least with this kind of spice) are not feeling the same intensity of sensation as another person eating the same spiciness of dish but who hasn't built up the resistance to it.

So, no, folk who like their food extra spicy aren't drowning the flavour, they are merely keeping the experience lively and maybe pushing their boundaries a little.
Posted by cheeky_monkey on January 20, 2010 at 3:21 PM · Report this
elenchos 37
Please try not to be a boor and brag about your taste for hot food. Nobody cares.
Posted by elenchos on January 20, 2010 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Hernandez 38
@37 Apparently you care enough to leave a comment about it.
Posted by Hernandez on January 20, 2010 at 3:50 PM · Report this
Packeteer 39
What I don't understand is how everyone here who does like really spicy food thinks it is wrong for every restaurant to not cater to their taste. A restaurant is a business and they need to not offend people. Someone who likes spicy food almost certainly also likes not spicy food. Someone who can't stand spice is going to not be able to eat something that is too spicy. Sure this drags everyone to the lowest common denominator but you have to understand that just because you grew up eating a ton of spicy food doesn't mean everyone else did.

I never ate spicy food growing up and now I enjoy it but I have to say that without any context spicy food is not food, it is painful. You can't expect your waiter to know what you are thinking. It is the same way with any restaurant. You won't know how the food is until you have tried it and the first time visiting is always a risky thing. It might not be something you like and there is no way around that.
Posted by Packeteer on January 20, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Packeteer - the problem isn't that some random dish isn't spicy enough. It's that when you ask for "the spiciest you have" or "five stars" or even, "I want Thai spicy, not white suburbanite spicy", you still get something with barely any kick. It is generally accepted that you can request different levels of heat in spicy dishes at places like these - they usually show it on the menu and ask when you place your order. It's disappointing to specifically request something only to feel like your request within their rules was not heard - and that borders on offensive for many people, especially those familiar with the cuisine.

Similarly, if spice bothers you, then ask before ordering if a dish is spicy or if you can get it mild. Even better, say, "I don't like spicy food, can you recommend something else tasty?" and follow their recommendation.

Either way, if they were not up to your standards, you are free to not go there anymore and take your business elsewhere. That's why I don't eat Chinese food unless I'm in the International District, and I only eat at a couple Thai places because their food is to my liking.
Posted by MemeGene on January 20, 2010 at 4:48 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 41
Do you also carry cards around town that read, "Can we have a table for two, please?" and "Can we have more water?"

If you show that card to a server, she'll have to bite her tongue not to say, "You're in Seattle, not Bangkok. I FUCKING SPEAK ENGLISH."
Posted by Free Lunch on January 20, 2010 at 6:10 PM · Report this
elenchos 42
Hernandez, you might have noticed, I care enough to post comments about a hell of a lot of inconsequential bullshit on this Slog. It's my burden to do so.

And if I can stop just one man from regaling his companions how hot he likes his food, it will have been worth it.
Posted by elenchos on January 20, 2010 at 6:56 PM · Report this
linda with a y 43
Did anyone see this article today?

BERLIN - Officials in Germany say eight teenagers were hospitalized after a test of courage in which they drank chili sauce more than 200 times hotter than typical Tabasco sauce.

The Red Cross in the southern city of Augsburg says that 10 boys, aged 13 and 14, drank the sauce Wednesday morning, apparently in school.

The German news agency DAPD quoted the Red Cross as saying the boys complained of feeling sick, and eight were taken to a hospital. They were to be kept in overnight for observation.

The Red Cross said that on the Scoville scale, which measures the hotness of sauce, the sauce measured 535,000 — compared to 2,500 for normal Tabasco sauce.

How could they possible drink that and still be able to breathe? I would think they would be gasping, puking and choking.

Posted by linda with a y on January 20, 2010 at 9:43 PM · Report this
linda with a y 44
I forgot to add that that is soooooo gonna hurt when it comes out. I bet these kids don't have any hair down there for awhile if ever.
Posted by linda with a y on January 21, 2010 at 9:08 AM · Report this
Cayenne, in all its permutations, is a vasodilator (which is why you can get high if you eat a bunch of it) and a flavor enhancer. I'm on a reduced-salt diet, so I flavor up the stuff I cook with spices rather than salt. In small quantities, you can use powdered cayenne as a salt substitute in many dishes, especially on steaks and chops. It doesn't take much to put a little zip in food, and get your salivary glands working. When I eat out these days, I notice that the food is sometimes so salted, it burns my unacclimatized tongue and throat more than a bit of cayenne does.

That said, I enjoy really hot food, too. Sometimes, though, with ethnic restaurants, you have to cultivate the staff over repeated visits, until you convince them to start treating you like a native. This is not a slam dunk and requires patience, politeness and effort, including educating yourself on the cuisine (cookbooks are useful guides), and maybe learning a few useful words. We're not the only ones who have racial stereotypes, you know.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM · Report this
@35: Yes. Classic. Did you know Johnny Cash was the coyote?
Posted by Gloria on January 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM · Report this
@46: Oh duh. Fuck. Ignore me. You already said that.
Posted by Gloria on January 21, 2010 at 11:32 AM · Report this
@35- "The Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango, also known as the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper is a type of pepper that are seen during the episode "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Our Homer)". Homer samples many different chilis proudly served by Springfield residents at the annual chili cook-off. Chief Wiggum prepares an especially spicy concoction for Homer containing, "The merciless peppers of Quetzalacatenango… grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum." "Quetzal" is a Central American bird and the currency of Guatemala. "Tenango" means in quiché "land of". Acatenango is a volcano in Guatemala. "Quetzalacatenango", also known as "Xela", is the second largest city in Guatemala. "Quetzalcoatl" was an Aztec deity."

Posted by dwight moody on January 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM · Report this
As long as we're all being pretentious, I'm going to point out that this card is also written in a formal male voice (only men say "phom" for "I" and say "khrap" at the end of sentences), so if a woman whips this card out, the waiter will probably laugh at her.
Posted by MaryaJane on January 21, 2010 at 1:53 PM · Report this
I like how knowing things makes people pretentious now. Come on guys, can't you just act like a bunch of witless dicks?
Posted by lenore on January 21, 2010 at 3:16 PM · Report this
@12 sounds like New Mexican...which is awesome in its own right.

@everybody else: there's a huge difference in how spices work in a dish if they are actually cooked in vs. sprinkled on top, and "hot" doesn't have to mean "killing all other flavor."
Posted by chorizo on January 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM · Report this

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