Wednesday, April 09, 2014

H is for hot

Viv and I are fans of hot food. Hot as in spicy-hot, not temperature-hot. He's actually a notch above me, because I would never enter a chilli-eating competition, and end up winning it too. (Yep, he really did that when we were in university.) He also almost entered the 'hall of flame' in a restaurant in Thailand, but it turns out the food was too hot even for him.

At home, I make moderately hot food, but I try not to go overboard because I feel that if the food is too hot, a little bit of the flavour and taste is lost. For that reason, even at restaurants where we are given a choice, I don't go for the highest level of hotness, though Viv does (and sometimes regrets).

I thought it might be fun to jog my memory and think of the hottest foods I've had, and here is my list. (Even though the norm here is the word 'spicy', I'll use 'hot' throughout the post because I think that the word 'spices' encompasses a lot more than just chillies. I often get disbelieving looks when I explain to my local friends how food can be spicy but not hot.)

1. Nando's in Lahore
I never miss the opportunity to make people (especially my dad) envious by telling them about my trip to Pakistan. I was there on work in 2006, promoting my company's books and carrying out presentations in various schools to train teachers on how to use them. In addition to work, I also had the awesome opportunity to see everything -- Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Wagah border and... Adnan Sami in a mall!' And that's where I first had food at Nando's. My hosts (the distributors of our books) had been asking me what kind of food I liked and I'd mentioned that I liked hot food. So they took me to Nando's. (Surprisingly, Lahore had Nando's before Singapore had Nando's, so I'd never had it.) My hosts instructed the waiter to turn up the heat in the dish I ordered and to make sure that 'Lahore ki naak na kat jaaye'. The waiter took their words a little too seriously, and though Lahore's naak stayed intact, my naak was molten by the first few bites. My hosts also challenged me to have two of the jalapeno poppers and I took the dare. Luckily, I had also ordered some Portugese lemonade which made sure that 'meri naak na kat jaaye'.

2. Habanero sauce at Cafe Iguana, Singapore
Cafe Iguana is one of my favourite Mexican restaurants in Singapore. Riverside dining, hot Mexican food and frozen mango margaritas. Yum and bliss. And that's where I'd had a taste of Habanero sauce for the first time. Though I saw the warning on the bottle that said 'The hottest sauce in the world', I poured a generous amount over my prawn chimichanga and took a large bite, setting my mouth on the kind of fire that only half a jug of the frozen mango margarita could douse.

3. Roadside pani puri, Bangalore
A few years ago, we were in Bangalore, staying at Viv's uncle's place. Uncle C knew that my favourite food was roadside pani puris so he took me to his regular guy one evening and asked him to make me some nice pani puris. I had them and they were okay. Uncle C noticed that I didn't look that happy and chided the pani puri wala. "Put a little more mirchi, yaar", he said. The guy got a little extra enthu and so the next round was.... woooohooooo. Hooooooooo. HOOOOOOOOO. So I asked him to tone it down a bit and then the next round was perfect. I can't remember how many I ate, but I believe I only stopped when it was time for him to go home.

4. Yellow ginger chicken, Thai Express, Singapore
One of our favourite haunts near our place is Thai Express. They have a reasonable vegetarian menu so it works well for Viv too (well, he just pretends that he did not hear the waiter say that the sauces and broths in even the vegetarian dishes are not exactly vegetarian). We used to go there so often that we knew the menu inside out. (But they pissed me off when they started charging for water.) I've tried every dish they have, and I have to say the yellow ginger chicken is HOT. Even hotter than their drunken fire noodles, Viv's regular order. It's the kind of hot that no sweet, frozen drink can neutralise.

5. Mutton vindaloo, random Indian restaurant, Singapore
I'd heard that vindaloo dishes are not for the faint-hearted, but I believed it only when I tried it. I can't quite remember where I had it but I do remember one thing. Hot hot hot. HOT. I bet even if they rinsed the aloo from the vindaloo in boiling hot water, it would still be fiery hot. Mutton vindaloo never again.

So what is the hottest food you've ever had?


Arun said...

While I prefer food in which I can taste something other than the chili, on dares from my sister I've eaten quite hot food. But the hottest food I ever had was at a Thai restaurant in greater Los Angeles. The restaurateur, from Thailand unsurprisingly, was telling us about how Ramayana happened in Thailand and from there went to India and so on. He was also resolved to uphold Thai honor with regard to beating Indian heat hollow; and he succeeded :) :) :)

Has Xena expressed any preference? (between a mere no to spicy hot food to a NO to merely spicy food, etc.)? :)

Porkodi (பொற்கொடி) said...

I have always had molaga bajjis and loved them, but once made a molaga bajji at home - omg!!!!!!! I still don't know how I ended up with that kind of mirchi.

Anonymous said...

In Bangkok went to a "local" place and had something random off the menu by pointing. It was a chicken curry with rice. Now normally I like hot food. I eat tadka mirchis and raw green chillies. But not this. This was fire (and volcanic activity the next day). I still ate it all btw, out of misplaced pride and innate desi vasooligiri.

Btw so jealous of the Pakistan trip. I trust you had nihari?

Varsha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Varsha said...

:) We cook very moderate food in the house, both in-laws and my maika. It is a good blend of Tamilian (in-laws) and Kannadiga (maika) style. However, the HOTTEST food that I have tasted is Andhra food. The Andhra restaurants in Bangalore do a bit HOT, but I visited my Teluguite friend once, while in college, and she had prepared all these sabjis and chutneys in typical Andhra style, and it was awesomely tasty... but yeah, by the end of it, my eyes and nose had drenched my face. THAT WAS HOT!

Thisisme said...

Though i have eaten major major hot food but somehow , Nothing has been hot enuff to burn my mouth/tummy till now!touch wood! i have been thru the infamous andhra food, whcih gave all my friends loosies !! LOL! for some reason, i stayed intact! Maybe the main reason for my good tolerance of HOT food is coz i was /am extremely fond of achaaar! Any Goddamn Achaar! I m called Achaar ki rani at my home! NOw when im in my 30s, i have controlled the urge to eat them and have them in normal human quantities!
but when i was a kid, i used to finished an entire Martabaan of aam ka achaar which my mom used to keep to be stored! I have finished off bottles of achaar in one go! I was so infamous for it, that wherever i went, i got strong instructions abt how achaar is unhealthy and i will get piles and what not! somehow all that never stopped me and i ended up having extra strong intestines! LOL!

I prefer spciy food as compared to HOT food now!
I lovvvvvveeee nandos..i used to have it weekly twice when i was living in London but indian nandos is okie dokie..not too great! I love the peri-peri sauces!!
At home, my maasi who is from mysore, makes awesome spicy mutton pulao..its loaded so much with chilles n its a rule in their house that fans n ACs r switched off when spicy pulao is served! I ended up sweating like a pig with all those chillies in my tummy!
so much so, now that everytime i have that variety of pulao,..i sit with a bowl of raita on the side for sure! Its my fire extinguisher! :))

Anonymous said...

Oh god I have such loser spice tolerance for an Indian, the boy is ALWAYS making fun of me! I can't even go beyond eating 'hot' at Nandos

Sayesha said...

LOL yes I remember my trip to Cambodia where I kept correcting our guide's version of the Ramayana. He was very annoyed with me I think. :P

Can't tell yet about Xena's preferences, but I've tried all levels of hotness in her food, including adding tabasco sauce to her pasta. Didn't notice any difference though.

Ooooh sounds yum! :P ~ ~ ~

LOL at "innate desi vasooligiri". And YES, I had nihari of course. It was in the buffet breakfast of the hotel I was staying in! :D

I visited India during my Dad's Hyderabad days and we were for the famous biryani at Paradise. We ordered a bunch of stuff but I don't remember the food being very hot though. Maybe they tone it down so kinds of people can enjoy it?

LOL achar ki rani, aapne pura blog post hi likh diya! :P Hehe, but I love achar too. :P

I NEVER order hot at Nando's. I always order lemon and herb and then add the hot sauce over it so I can regulate the hotness myself. :D

Anonymous said...

Nihari for breakfast, lol you like to live dangerously!

Sayesha said...


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