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What culture eats the hottest food?

What culture eats the hottest food?
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  • What culture eats the hottest food?

    Post #1 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:08 pm
    Post #1 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:08 pm Post #1 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:08 pm
    HI,

    I was talking to a Mexican recently about various restaurants. I mentioned one restaurant's Ranchero sauce was just a bit too spicy for me.

    He is aware of my interest in eating and discussing foods of every stripe and color, though he is a bit surprised at my adversion to capsaicin. I always comment I just love turning red, crying and coughing a lung up. For some it is a challenge, for me it is torture.

    This drifted into a conversation of various cuisines and their level of capsaicin(-ish) heat. He thought Indian food might be hotter than Mexican. I commented Thai also could be heated as well as Szechuan Chinese and Korean. When he wanted a ranking of these cuisines, then I could only guess Thai and Indian might share the upper tier. Of course, those who know me best have to laugh because I am so heat-adverse, I am really in no position to comment.

    I must draw on other's experience on what is the hottest cuisines and how would you rank others? Are there other cuisines that are capsaicin scorchers?

    Thanks!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #2 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:34 pm
    Post #2 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:34 pm Post #2 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:34 pm
    The hottest food I'd ever eaten was Sri Lankan. I should have known what was coming from the travel posters on the wall showing a woman in front of acres of dried chiles.

    This was at a restaurant named "Ceylon" in Minneapolis (not known for its spicy food), no longer in existence. We ordered at a level 4 or 5 out of 7. My mouth burned for hours.

    In my experience, Thai is probably #2.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #3 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:52 pm
    Post #3 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:52 pm Post #3 - September 2nd, 2006, 4:52 pm
    Hi,

    I should have thought about Sri Lanka. Some years ago, my Dad went to Sri Lanka. As a souvenir of his visit, he brought me home about 2 dozen foil wrapped pouches of various curry powders. I gave some to an Indian woman I was acquainted with who was so impressed by the level of heat, she didn't want any more packets from me. She then launched into a topic of how to mitigate heat levels, simply because she had to implement them all after trying those curries.

    I think I still have them. As they are hermetically sealed, they are probably as fresh as the day they were sealed. If I still have them, which is very likely, I might just bring them to an LTH occasion free to anyone who is willing to risk it. Maybe to the LTHforum picnic!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - September 2nd, 2006, 5:53 pm
    Post #4 - September 2nd, 2006, 5:53 pm Post #4 - September 2nd, 2006, 5:53 pm
    In my own, quite limited, experience, I'd have to put Sri Lankan up there, with Nigerian running it a close second. I do wonder, though, if geographically/culturally speaking, that would mean expanding each designation to include part of South India as well as other parts of West Africa. I simply don't know enough here. We need to get a post from sazerac, as someone with intimate knowledge of both Indian (although admittedly Bengali) food and West African (specifically Nigerian) food.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #5 - September 2nd, 2006, 8:05 pm
    Post #5 - September 2nd, 2006, 8:05 pm Post #5 - September 2nd, 2006, 8:05 pm
    I do not speak from experience, but a good friend of mine who still travels the world full-time on a shoestring budget has always said that curries across central Africa were among the spiciest things he had ever tasted.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #6 - September 2nd, 2006, 8:30 pm
    Post #6 - September 2nd, 2006, 8:30 pm Post #6 - September 2nd, 2006, 8:30 pm
    I've always wondered about why certain cultures preferred spicy cuisine while others didn't have much use for it. This thread led me to google, where I landed on this article,, which may be of interest:

    ITHACA, N.Y. -- Fans of hot, spicy cuisine can thank nasty bacteria and other foodborne pathogens for the recipes that come -- not so coincidentally -- from countries with hot climates. Humans' use of antimicrobial spices developed in parallel with food-spoilage microorganisms, Cornell University biologists have demonstrated in an international survey of spice use in cooking.

    The same chemical compounds that protect the spiciest spice plants from their natural enemies are at work today in foods from parts of the world where -- before refrigeration -- food-spoilage microbes were an even more serious threat to human health and survival than they are today, Jennifer Billing and Paul W. Sherman report in the March 1998 issue of the journal "Quarterly Review of Biology".

    "The proximate reason for spice use obviously is to enhance food palatability," says Sherman, an evolutionary biologist and professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell. "But why do spices taste good? Traits that are beneficial are transmitted both culturally and genetically,and that includes taste receptors in our mouths and our taste for certain flavors. People who enjoyed food with antibacterial spices probably were healthier, especially in hot climates. They lived longer and left more offspring. And they taught their offspring and others: 'This is how to cook a mastodon.' We believe the ultimate reason for using spices is to kill food-borne bacteria and fungi."


    Read the rest here.
    Joe G.

    "Whatever may be wrong with the world, at least it has some good things to eat." -- Cowboy Jack Clement
  • Post #7 - September 2nd, 2006, 9:47 pm
    Post #7 - September 2nd, 2006, 9:47 pm Post #7 - September 2nd, 2006, 9:47 pm
    The Condiment Queen and I have this discussion often.

    I think Thai food is, like the all around hottest, I mean where extreme hot can play a vital role in the cuisine, but I'm not familiar with Sri Lanken and I have limited experience with Nigerian, so maybe I don't know.

    I think Mexican food is way under-rated for hotness, and is much hotter than I think given credit. Also, I personally enjoy the great(er) use of fresh peppers in Mexican food as compared with some other foods that rely more on dry peppers.

    Korean food is certainly in your face amazing.

    Personally, I find Szechuan food a notch below the top tier (and I'd put Indian-Pakistani in the top tier).

    BTW, did not we have this discussion before on this forum :?:
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #8 - September 3rd, 2006, 8:33 pm
    Post #8 - September 3rd, 2006, 8:33 pm Post #8 - September 3rd, 2006, 8:33 pm
    The spiciest food I ever had was a Persian kebab. It wasn't the kebab itself that was spicy but the pepper sauce that came with it. It's basically made of ground pepper seeds and not much else. I had to order a dollop of yogurt since it was so unbearable.

    I have tried the Sichuan hot pot and usually order any thai dishes "thai hot" but none of them come close.
  • Post #9 - September 3rd, 2006, 9:44 pm
    Post #9 - September 3rd, 2006, 9:44 pm Post #9 - September 3rd, 2006, 9:44 pm
    Goan vindaloo is pretty volcanic, but I've read (not experienced) that Laotian food is some of the hottest anywhere -- and this from someone who has spent a lot of time in Thailand.
  • Post #10 - September 4th, 2006, 6:35 pm
    Post #10 - September 4th, 2006, 6:35 pm Post #10 - September 4th, 2006, 6:35 pm
    Mexican food, overall, is not really that spicy from my experience. Barring the occassional habanero-laced dish from the Yucatan, I've never experienced any Mexican I would call really spicy.

    For my money, once you get to a certain level of heat, I don't think there's much differentiating it. The hottest dish I've ever had was a vindaloo from a Punjab restaurant in Wolverhampton, England. It was so hot my ears rang. I've had phals and tindaloos that weren't this spicy. Other than this experience, I've generally found Thai to be spicier than Indian/Pakistani.
    I've had Szechuan dishes that were up there. I don't think I've ever eaten Sri Lankan and, as far as Africa goes, I've only had South African dishes which weren't all too spicy at all.

    So from my experience, Thai is the hottest (when you ask for it "Thai spicy.") Mexican can be hot, but overall is on the lower scale of heat.
  • Post #11 - September 4th, 2006, 8:38 pm
    Post #11 - September 4th, 2006, 8:38 pm Post #11 - September 4th, 2006, 8:38 pm
    The only explanation I have for why the Indian stuff seems less spicy is that it is often mitigated with dairy -- which you never see in Thai.
    The most fiery stuff I have had from the Indian subcontinent (including Sri Lanka) are typically the things without much creaminess to them
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #12 - September 5th, 2006, 1:13 pm
    Post #12 - September 5th, 2006, 1:13 pm Post #12 - September 5th, 2006, 1:13 pm
    I've read multiple times that its Thailand and Korea, way out in front on chiles per capita, followed distantly by other places such as India and Mexico. I have a hard time believing that it's easy to keep track of such things, particularly when one is talking about something as easy to grow at home and used extensively by indigenous folks living at subsistance levels. To VI's point about Mexican, while few dishes are truly scorching like certain curries, one is likely to eat a very hot pepper or crude salsa out of hand in Mexico (Thailand, too), which does not seem to be the case in most other spots where hot foods are prized.
  • Post #13 - September 7th, 2006, 6:02 pm
    Post #13 - September 7th, 2006, 6:02 pm Post #13 - September 7th, 2006, 6:02 pm
    In my experience, Thailand has the most consistently hot food,as well as the hottest individual dishes. I can recall a green papaya salad bought from a street vendor in northern Thailand (and served with tiny little rice paddy crabs), as being the hottest (and one of the best) things I have ever eaten
  • Post #14 - September 17th, 2006, 2:52 pm
    Post #14 - September 17th, 2006, 2:52 pm Post #14 - September 17th, 2006, 2:52 pm
    JeffB wrote:I've read multiple times that its Thailand and Korea, way out in front on chiles per capita, followed distantly by other places such as India and Mexico.


    My parents were just complaining about how spicy Korean food has become (they are Korean). They say the heat level that is now so prevalent was really regional, that it was the southern parts of the country that were notorious for having spicy food. Other parts of the country, especially in what is now North Korea, favored a more subtle use of chiles (white kimchi is very common in the northern regions).

    My husband (from a German-English-Irish background) keeps asking for more kochujang because my mother won't use enough to suit him!

    -gtgirl
  • Post #15 - September 19th, 2006, 8:35 am
    Post #15 - September 19th, 2006, 8:35 am Post #15 - September 19th, 2006, 8:35 am
    germuska wrote:I've always wondered about why certain cultures preferred spicy cuisine while others didn't have much use for it. This thread led me to google, where I landed on this article,, which may be of interest:

    ITHACA, N.Y. -- Fans of hot, . . ."


    I've heard the preservative reasoning as well, and there's some probably some merit to it as well (especiallya s you notice that in most chili eating countries, that the heat level increases as you go south. Another reason that hasn't been mentioned is the economic reason, if a food is particularly spicy (this also applies to other forms of pungency) it requires/flavors greater amounts of cheaper base starch, and thus produces a more filling meal with less cost. this is something that I don't know if you get a sense of in restuarant cooking as the meat/starch ratio is much higher in restaurants that in would be in home cooking.
  • Post #16 - September 21st, 2006, 11:03 am
    Post #16 - September 21st, 2006, 11:03 am Post #16 - September 21st, 2006, 11:03 am
    Hi, this is my first post, woo-hoo. Been reading for a long time though.

    I just want to pipe in and say that my hottest food eating experience ever was near the city of Padang, in Sumatra, Indonesia. I had just arrived from Thailand where I spent a couple of months building up my tolerance for chilis. Somehow that didn't prepare me in the least for this one meal I had at a roadside restaurant in rural Sumatra. It's worth noting that it was Ramadan when most Indonesians don't eat during the day. My lunchtime meal consisted of food that was probably prepared in the morning with the intention of sitting out all day. It was curry over rice and was basically pure chilis. With some beef mixed in.

    Padang food is wonderful and is served all over Indonesia. It's also notoriously hot. The food I had during Ramadan was probably amped up to deter bacterial growth. There's not a lot of refridgeration for prepared food in that part of the world. Anyway, I didn't intend to fast but that's pretty much what I ended up doing. The food I had that day was inedible.

    - Judy C.
  • Post #17 - September 21st, 2006, 11:17 am
    Post #17 - September 21st, 2006, 11:17 am Post #17 - September 21st, 2006, 11:17 am
    stelladoro wrote:Hi, this is my first post, woo-hoo. Been reading for a long time though.

    I just want to pipe in and say that my hottest food eating experience ever was near the city of Padang, in Sumatra, Indonesia...


    Interesting... Did you have a chance to travel around Indonesia at all?

    Thanks! ... and welcome...
    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #18 - September 21st, 2006, 12:56 pm
    Post #18 - September 21st, 2006, 12:56 pm Post #18 - September 21st, 2006, 12:56 pm
    Hey, thanks! Yes, I travelled around Indonesia for two months. It was several yrs ago before the SE Asian economic crash. And before any bombings or tsunamis. I made it as far east as Flores where I saw gorgeous colored crater lakes at sunrise. Went to Java and visited Borobudur. Saw wild horses on Gili Air off of Lombok. Tromped around Komodo looking for big pig-eating lizards. Pretty much skipped Bali which is a shame. It's a fantastically beautiful country. Food-wise I wasn't expecting much but ended up totally in love. Too bad it's so hard to come by around here. And too bad it's so far away. But I guess that's the point.

    Somtimes I cook tempeh to make myself better.

    Btw, never once did I have satay with peanut sauce while I was in Thailand. However, I had amazing chicken satay in Indonesia, Java in particular. I wonder, is peanut sauce really Thai or is it Indonesian? Is that some big American screw-up? There were many mystery foods sold by street vendors while I was in Thailand. I could have just missed it. Anyone know?

    Thanks,
    Judy C.
  • Post #19 - September 21st, 2006, 1:29 pm
    Post #19 - September 21st, 2006, 1:29 pm Post #19 - September 21st, 2006, 1:29 pm
    stelladoro wrote:Btw, never once did I have satay with peanut sauce while I was in Thailand. However, I had amazing chicken satay in Indonesia, Java in particular. I wonder, is peanut sauce really Thai or is it Indonesian? Is that some big American screw-up? There were many mystery foods sold by street vendors while I was in Thailand. I could have just missed it. Anyone know?


    What part of Thailand were you in? I found that peanuts were used more often in the north than in the south -- not just in sauce but in dishes such as masamun nua.
  • Post #20 - September 21st, 2006, 1:35 pm
    Post #20 - September 21st, 2006, 1:35 pm Post #20 - September 21st, 2006, 1:35 pm
    stelladoro wrote:Btw, never once did I have satay with peanut sauce while I was in Thailand. However, I had amazing chicken satay in Indonesia, Java in particular. I wonder, is peanut sauce really Thai or is it Indonesian? Is that some big American screw-up? There were many mystery foods sold by street vendors while I was in Thailand. I could have just missed it. Anyone know?

    Thanks,
    Judy C.


    Judy, welcome aboard!

    I too remember some blistering hot food in Bali, and yeah, it probably was hotter than the stuff I had in Thailand.*

    And I'm with you on satays too. What I remember most was that in the US, satay is almost always thin/pounded, and that's not the way it was in SE Asia (Bali, Thailand or Singapore). It was chunky.

    *I think this is a result of eating mostly street food or specialities of Bangkok. For instance, things like char-grilled giant prawns, fried chicken (or satays) are just not meant to be that spicy.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #21 - September 21st, 2006, 1:51 pm
    Post #21 - September 21st, 2006, 1:51 pm Post #21 - September 21st, 2006, 1:51 pm
    stelladoro wrote:Btw, never once did I have satay with peanut sauce while I was in Thailand. However, I had amazing chicken satay in Indonesia, Java in particular. I wonder, is peanut sauce really Thai or is it Indonesian? Is that some big American screw-up?

    If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that it was originally Indonesian/Malay, and made its way up through SE asia. I've seen a number of Chinese restos serving satay. It's one of those "hey, that's obvious" kinds of foods -- Pork on a stick should be ubiquitous.

    OK, I guessed... and appear to be mostly right. Not much help on the peanut sauce origin.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satay
    Wikipedia wrote:Satay (also written saté) is a dish that may have originated in Sumatra or Java, Indonesia, but which is popular in many Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Thailand, as well as in Holland which was influenced through its former colonies...
    It may be served with a spicy peanut sauce dip, or peanut gravy, slivers of onions and cucumbers, and ketupat. Pork satay can be served in a pineapple based satay sauce. An Indonesian version uses a soy-based dip
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #22 - September 21st, 2006, 2:13 pm
    Post #22 - September 21st, 2006, 2:13 pm Post #22 - September 21st, 2006, 2:13 pm
    JoelF wrote:If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that it was originally Indonesian/Malay, and made its way up through SE asia. I've seen a number of Chinese restos serving satay. It's one of those "hey, that's obvious" kinds of foods -- Pork on a stick should be ubiquitous.


    But that can be said of most Thai food. Thai food itself is a blend of influences, including Malay, Chinese, and Indian, with incursions by Muslim traders from further west ("Masamun" in the popular northern Thai dish Masamun nua is the Thai word for "Moslem" -- which is why it's beef and not pork). Thai peanut sauce definitely originated in Malaysia (though not until after the 1500, as peanuts are New World food items), as did satay/saté, and then spread. I saw it everywhere while traveling in Indonesia, but I also saw it in Thailand.
  • Post #23 - September 21st, 2006, 2:34 pm
    Post #23 - September 21st, 2006, 2:34 pm Post #23 - September 21st, 2006, 2:34 pm
    I guess I should clarify. I ate a lot of satay in Thailand just none with peanut sauce. Fish balls on a stick, for example, were everywhere. And chopped peanuts are ubiquitous. Don't remember if they were more common in the north or south...? It's just the sauce, it's always referred to as Thai Peanut Sauce but I tend to think that's a misnomer.

    And, yeah, it's not the same here. I never order it. It's like advertising "i'm a rube."

    Anywho, now that I've finally posted here, thanks for all the fun food chat and great food recommendations! There's always something new to try.

    And since it's almost the New Year, Happy New Year! It's 5767. Kooky!

    Cheers,
    Judy C
  • Post #24 - September 21st, 2006, 3:36 pm
    Post #24 - September 21st, 2006, 3:36 pm Post #24 - September 21st, 2006, 3:36 pm
    stelladoro wrote:I guess I should clarify. I ate a lot of satay in Thailand just none with peanut sauce. Fish balls on a stick, for example, were everywhere. And chopped peanuts are ubiquitous. Don't remember if they were more common in the north or south...? It's just the sauce, it's always referred to as Thai Peanut Sauce but I tend to think that's a misnomer.


    One reason why the sauce in Thailand seemed so different to you might be the fact that much of what is found on the streets these days is made with condensed milk. At any rate, sà-té sauce as it's commonly found in Thailand contains peanuts, it's just that the peanuts are chopped or pulverized by hand.

    The difference between sà-té sauce as it's commonly found in Thailand and ThaiAm-style sà-té sauce is really about two things:

    1. ThaiAm-style sauce usu. includes peanut butter, not chopped or pulverised peanuts

    2. unlike it's American counterpart, sà-té sauce as it's found in Thailand is quite spicy, due to the inclusion of red curry paste

    stelladoro wrote:And, yeah, it's not the same here. I never order it. It's like advertising "i'm a rube."


    Don't be silly. I know plenty of Thai folks who order sà-té in the restaurants here, and they don't shun the sauce, either.

    "The Truth About Peanut Sauce" @ ThaiTable.com

    A Modern "Satay" Recipe @ ThaiTable.com

    "Satay" Pork in Peanut Sauce @ EnjoyThaiFood.com

    E.M.
    Last edited by Erik M. on September 22nd, 2006, 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #25 - September 21st, 2006, 9:47 pm
    Post #25 - September 21st, 2006, 9:47 pm Post #25 - September 21st, 2006, 9:47 pm
    In the evening, after the shops in the tourist district closed, street vendors in Yogyacarta would set up stands selling sate until the wee hours. These were manned by loincloth clad cooks hunched over camphorous fires and patronized by every strata of local society, from well dressed merchants and tourists, to bicycle taxi drivers. The busiest stands were those featuring sate kamping (goat). These were served in an ingenious package made from a bannana leaf, coated with peanut sauce and then toothpicked into a pyramidal container surrounding the skewers. The result was a perfect biodegradable sate dispenser which would automatically coat each sate with exactly the right ammount of sauce as it was extracted. Amazing. Nothing quite like this here, tho I find the beef sate at Panang at least similar in spirit.
  • Post #26 - September 27th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    Post #26 - September 27th, 2006, 4:53 pm Post #26 - September 27th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    Back to the original question, my vote would be that the hottest food is Malaysian. At a street fair in NYC a Malaysian restaurant served food so hot that I could barely taste it. A couple of mouthfuls lasted for hours.
  • Post #27 - September 28th, 2006, 6:53 pm
    Post #27 - September 28th, 2006, 6:53 pm Post #27 - September 28th, 2006, 6:53 pm
    JoelF wrote:The only explanation I have for why the Indian stuff seems less spicy is that it is often mitigated with dairy -- which you never see in Thai.

    Yes, but there's a difference between spicy Indian food and other spicy cuisines in my experience. With spicy Thai food (and Szechwan and Mexican) the heat hits you in your head. You feel it in your mouth and your sinuses and at the back of the throat. It makes your tongue burn and your eyes water and your nose run.

    Hot Indian food, on the other hand, burns all the way down.*

    I don't know whether it's the complexity of the seasoning or the dairy products or what.

    *And all the way back up, as a colleague said.
  • Post #28 - October 20th, 2006, 2:45 pm
    Post #28 - October 20th, 2006, 2:45 pm Post #28 - October 20th, 2006, 2:45 pm
    Sate kambing, sate ayam, sate daging, it doesn't matter, if its done right by a little Indonesian Kaki Lima, it's amazing. Add some kankung, some ... oh anything Indonesian. Is Panang really the closest thing we have in Chicago?
  • Post #29 - June 15th, 2007, 4:12 pm
    Post #29 - June 15th, 2007, 4:12 pm Post #29 - June 15th, 2007, 4:12 pm
    I think we are helpless in this matter. I don't believe there is any Indonesian restaurant in Chicago and Penang is remotely close to a representation of Indonesian food. Madison has an Indonesian restaurant (Bandung Restaurant).

    Back to some of the comments, I think Menado's spicy level surpass that of Padang's. Burnt a hole in my tongue last time I ate Menado's food. Definitely not for beginners.
  • Post #30 - June 15th, 2007, 8:15 pm
    Post #30 - June 15th, 2007, 8:15 pm Post #30 - June 15th, 2007, 8:15 pm
    Yes, but there's a difference between spicy Indian food and other spicy cuisines in my experience. With spicy Thai food (and Szechwan and Mexican) the heat hits you in your head. You feel it in your mouth and your sinuses and at the back of the throat. It makes your tongue burn and your eyes water and your nose run.

    Hot Indian food, on the other hand, burns all the way down.*


    My experience has been the opposite. In fact, I've had Thai dishes that have left my stomach burning for hours.

    For some reason, I'm getting less able to tolerate heat lately. I thought it was supposed to work the other way--the more you eat it, the more tolerant you become of increasing heat levels. I'm only in my late twenties...I shouldn't be needing the old folks' menu of bland mush for a few more decades, I thought!

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