Friday Food and Drink Post: Currying Favor

 

File:Indian Curry Chicken.jpgI love a nice bowl of curry! Unfortunately, I get the same reaction to those words in my married-into family as I get when I exclaim “I love a nice piece of fruitcake!” So to indulge myself, it’s necessary to either go out with friends who share similar tastes, or to hook up, one way or another, with my brother and sister in the UK so that we can have a pig-out. (The Worcestershire area has some very nice Balti restaurants (I prefer the beef), and some of the better Indian restaurants, which offer more of a variety, do lovely curries. I’m not a fan of “curry and chips.” Nor of most “fish and chips” as they manifest themselves in the land of my birth, either, but that’s a whole nother story).

In the matter of curry, I’m pretty indifferent to, and catholic in my tastes, as far as the country of origin and heat output. A nice Thai panang (red or green curry), or Kiang Som Kung (sour shrimp curry) is scrumptious. Vindaloo, ramped up to a heat scale of about nine out of ten is delicious, as is Makhani, a mild chicken dish. Stretching the definition a bit, I’ll throw in a nice jambalaya here as well. The common factor with most curries, worldwide is rice, although the varieties change from place to place–plain long-grain, basmati, jasmine and so on. The subtle flavor of the rice enhances the spices in the curry, or in the case of plain rice, provides a nice contrast, and it’s important to use the right one for the right dish. Or so I think.

I’ve just returned from a trip to Pittsburgh to help my friend Andrea, who’s had a bit of a run of bad health lately, plant some flowers in her garden. She and I had a delightful afternoon last week at a local ice-cream parlor, and we followed that up with a visit to Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse, just down the road. It’s a lovely nursery of the plant variety. It’s the only other place, besides luxury fabric stores in Italy, and sundry exotic spinning and knitting supply places all over the world, where I have to worry that the credit card company might be calling Mr. She to “turn me in” for an overabundance of retail therapy before I make it home. But I digress.

Andy and I had a delightful morning and afternoon, starting with delicious fresh bagels, cream cheese and coffee, followed by gardening (her garden is lovely; a haven for birds and wildlife, almost right in the middle of the city of Pittsburgh), and then she took me to lunch.

At a new and nice little curry place on Banksville Road. I asked for Vindaloo, as hot as they could make it. The young woman taking my order wasn’t sure I knew what I was asking for, and was a bit tentative about writing it down.

Andrea assured her I did, and that “hot as you can make it” was exactly what I wanted.

You see, she was with me in Washington DC a few decades ago, on a trip to the Smithsonian to see the Mesopotamian Art treasures from the Louvre which were on display. The trip on which I ate the hottest Vindaloo I think the world has ever seen. And she’s been trying to recreate that experience for me ever since.

Now that’s a real pal.

When you’re in the mood for a good curry, what do you order up?

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  1. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    She: The young woman taking my order, wasn’t sure I knew what I was asking for, and was a bit tentative about writing it down.

    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10, and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food) always wondered, was that a American scale of 1 to 10 or a Thai scale of 1 to 10.

    I love the curries I’ve had so far, but I need more experience of them.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    To paraphrase Mr. Young from Wag the Dog: There is no difference between good curry and bad curry.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    … if it is hot enough, that is.

    • #3
  4. Belt Member
    Belt
    @Belt

    The nearest Indian restaurant is about 50 miles away, so I get curry maybe one or two times a year. If I could get it more often, I would. I did pick up a jar of curry sauce from Walmart a couple of weeks ago – Does that count?

    • #4
  5. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Belt (View Comment):

    The nearest Indian restaurant is about 50 miles away, so I get curry maybe one or two times a year. If I could get it more often, I would. I did pick up a jar of curry sauce from Walmart a couple of weeks ago – Does that count?

    Sure. Do what you can do.

    • #5
  6. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    I just tell guests that we are having chicken and rice. No one complains about rice cooked with coconut milk. So far.

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    EODmom (View Comment):

    I just tell guests that we are having chicken and rice. No one complains about rice cooked with coconut milk. So far.

    Coconut milk! Nectar of the gods. Any gods!

    • #7
  8. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    My father in law has the same curry heat taste as you. We have some stories there. I like it hot, but quite to his level.

    • #8
  9. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    My favorite curry is the curry I make at home. I have a go-to chicken curry, and also a turkey mulligatawny which is great after Thanksgiving. I’m going to try a lamb curry very soon. In general our kids even enjoy our curries! Mmmm! Tasty!

    • #9
  10. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The best curry I ever had was in a pub in the British town of Thirsk. Back in 1984! I will always remember that, as it was a rainy day, and we had come from a morning at the cathedral. We had pub lunches all over Britain, and all the food was wonderful. I made a point to have a half-pint of whatever the house ale was, and drank a bunch of new brands. I still have the pub coasters to prove it!

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    The suggestions sound delicious. @rushbabe49, how funny that you found excellent curry up there in James Herriott country. Reminded me a bit (although not of curry) of a “steak and ale pie” lunch that Mr. She and I had at a little pub not far from Tintern Abbey, on what was also a rainy day, when we were sightseeing and doing pub lunches all over the place.

    La Tapada (View Comment):
    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10

    I made Thai red curry paste from scratch once. It was an olfactory and visual feast, and, since I used a stone mortar and pestle, rather than cheating with a food processor, I had worked up an appetite by the time I was done. It was good, hot and spicy.

    and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food)

    Tell us more, please @latapada. I know nothing about Peruvian food.

    • #11
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    La Tapada (View Comment):

    She: The young woman taking my order, wasn’t sure I knew what I was asking for, and was a bit tentative about writing it down.

    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10, and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food) always wondered, was that a American scale of 1 to 10 or a Thai scale of 1 to 10.

    I love the curries I’ve had so far, but I need more experience of them.

    The smartest restaurant customer taste gambit I’ve seen was at an Indian restaurant a couple decades back. They brought out a complimentary appetizer and some water. Then they came back for the order and asked “On a scale of 1 to 10, with this appetizer being a 5, how spicy would you like your meal?”

    • #12
  13. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    La Tapada (View Comment):

    She: The young woman taking my order, wasn’t sure I knew what I was asking for, and was a bit tentative about writing it down.

    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10, and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food) always wondered, was that a American scale of 1 to 10 or a Thai scale of 1 to 10.

    I love the curries I’ve had so far, but I need more experience of them.

    The smartest restaurant customer taste gambit I’ve seen was at an Indian restaurant a couple decades back. They brought out a complimentary appetizer and some water. Then they came back for the order and asked “On a scale of 1 to 10, with this appetizer being a 5, how spicy would you like your meal?”

    Sounds like my kind of place!

    • #13
  14. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    La Tapada (View Comment):

    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10, and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food) always wondered, was that a American scale of 1 to 10 or a Thai scale of 1 to 10.

    I love the curries I’ve had so far, but I need more experience of them.

    First, I don’t know Indian cuisine well.

    As far as Thai food, I’m a bit of a subject matter expert. For whatever reason, I don’t like Thai curries with coconut milk.

    I like coconut milk. I like curry. Mix the two and I find it gag-worthy. Got it. It’s my issue.

    My favorite “spicy” claim to fame was in a little Thai place off of Ft. Bragg. The lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo and I went in to the the place for the first time; we had our newest baby with us in one of those baby carrier things that you can slot into a base in your car to make a car seat.

    Our little bundle of joy was up on the table, and she was about 3 months old, so just starting to show emotions (other than crying all night) and interact with people.

    The Thai waitress came up and peered into the little baby-holder/car seat thingie and said, “Oh, so beautiful!” as my kid burbled and smiled and blew spit bubbles of delight and kicked in glee at the attention she was getting from the waitress. The waitress clapped her hands in glee and said, “Oh! they must see this!” Aaaand picked up the baby carrier and walked back into the kitchens. Uuh. Okay.

    The lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo and I looked at each other and shrugged. Eh, we’ll probably get her back.

    Eventually, they brought the kid back out. Luckily, that had given us time to peruse the menu. We made our orders. I ordered an oversize bowl of lemon grass soup with chicken (Tum Yum Gai). The restaurant had a 1 thru 5 star spiciness scale. I ordered 5 stars. The waitress nodded and turned to go.

    “Wait. I don’t want white boy 5 star spice. I want 5 star Thai spicy.”

    She held the menus she’d reclaimed from us over her mouth and laughed, “Oh, Hon, you can’t eat Thai spicy.”

    “Darlin’, you can’t make it spicy enough.”

    When the bowl of soup came out, all the kitchen staff were peering out of the sides of the swing doors. When the bowl was put in front of me, I immediately teared up and started snottin’. This’ll do, I thought. I ate the whole bowl, with minimal crying and begging for the pain to end.

    We were rockstars there, everafter.

    • #14
  15. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    I learned to love Indian food while visiting England with my husband. I am a wimp regarding heat, so I stick to Korma, Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, etc. My husband having grown up in England, had eaten Indian food all his life so he eats curries further up the temperature scale.

    When we lived in Dallas, we tried a few Indian restaurants there and weren’t overwhelmed. We were at a company party one Saturday and I asked one of my husband’s employees who had moved from India to the US as a child where we could get good Indian food in Dallas. “My mother’s house,” he replied.

    One New Year’s Eve in Atlanta, we had neglected to make plans ahead of time. We wanted to go to dinner with some friends and the only restaurant that had tables was a neighborhood Indian restaurant. The three guys with us were not particularly experienced with Indian cuisine, but said they liked very hot food. They told the server to ask the chef to choose a meal for them, “The hotter the better!” Well, it came out and they began to eat. Their faces turned red, sweat popped out on their foreheads, and their eyes welled up. “Delicious!” they cried as they soldiered on through the entire meal. They started reaching for the ice water, but we were able to convince them that bread would be more effective. They consumed quite a bit of naan that night.

    • #15
  16. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    When the bowl of soup came out, all the kitchen staff were peering out of the sides of the swing doors. When the bowl was put in front of me, I immediately teared up and started snottin’. This’ll do, I thought. I ate the whole bowl, with minimal crying and begging for the pain to end.

    Sounds like my father in law. There was a local Indian restaurant he favored while my wife was growing up, and one day he took some missionary friends, who had just returned from India, to the place to ask them whether the food was up to par or not. But he also wanted to show off.

    I should note that he’s English, and in mannerisms sometimes reminds me of John Cleese, so picturing Cleese in your mind, in full Basil Fawlty mode, is best.

    He ordered a goat vindaloo, then asked that they make it as hot as they could. “Are you certain?” “Oh yes, I love it hot. And I don’t mean American hot.”

    The dish arrived. My wife said his face turned bright red with the first bite, and tears poured down his face as he ate. The entire kitchen staff came out to watch him eat.

    “How is it sir, to your liking?” asked the waiter. “Oh…” he barely wheezed out, “it’s bloody marvelous!” My wife said she could barely hear him.

    But he cleaned the plate.

    • #16
  17. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    One of my favorite curry stories is one I read in a travel magazine in a laundromat. The author described his quest to find “the world’s hottest native curry”, and he was deliberately excluding the super hot ones restaurants cook up for notoriety, instead looking for one in Asia that was actually made by locals, for locals.

    He ended up in Goa. Goa, being mostly Christian, is the only place in India where you can have a beef and goat curry in one dish. But the hot one was a shrimp curry, and you had to order it a day in advance. They’d go out and catch the shrimp, dig a pit on the beach, start a fire and get a good bed of coals going, then cook it a big clay pot buried in the sand over the coals.

    I remember just a bit of how the author described it. “The initial searing pain was immense and prolonged, but once you worked through that the intensity of the flavor was amazing.”

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    One thing about eating spicy foods is that one has to keep in practice. I grew up with a father whose favorite line was, “It’s not hot unless it makes your hair sweat.” Note: he was not talking about the scalp. He meant the hair. Thus, growing up, I was inured to the heat and I tended to eat very spicy meals when I got out on my own. At one point, I made up a hot sauce and sent him some. He approved. It made his hair sweat. I took a weaker batch into work. One girl waved her tortilla chip three inches above the top of the sauce and tried it, exclaiming, “Oh my G-d, that’s too hot!” My way of describing what I wanted when I went to a Thai place was “Respiratory distress.”

    Then I married a girl who orders Thai as “no spice.” Cooking at home for both of us meant I got out of the habit. I occasionally get something spicier when we go out. I use some hotter spices for lunch at home. But there’s no way I could pop habañeros like I used to do, or eat Thai that was kicked up to 11.

    Because of some dietary issues, I also can’t eat wheat or rice, so haven’t been to an Indian place in years. Obviously, I need to get out more.

    • #18
  19. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Great stories! I agree it’s necessary to “keep in shape” if you like hot food. Mr. She used to go toe-to-toe with me, and then had some health problems that restricted his diet. Even after he recovered, he had to tone down the heat considerably, so now I have to watch the heat scale when I cook at home, or add more heat just to my plate.

    A few cookbook recommendations:

    Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking: This is my go to “Indian” cookbook. The Naan Bread recipe is particularly good (I bake mine in the oven, on a 50-year old baking stone I’ve had since junior-high school.) I also love Potatoes with Black Pepper. It’s a great way to use up leftover boiled potatoes (the waxy kind work better than the floury kind). There are also lots of stew and curry recipes, for which you can adjust the heat to taste. Everything I’ve ever made from this book has been good.

    Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and a Cookbook of the British Raj, by Jennifer Brennan: This is as much of a “reading” book as a cooking book, full of stories about the author’s childhood in British India. The recipes are good, but I bought it for the stories, which reminded me of my life growing up in Nigeria. One of these days, I want to try her Poppadum recipe.

    The Original Thai Cookbook, Jennifer Brennan again: This book draws on the decade she spent living in Thailand, and is stuffed with background information, useful tips and delicious recipes. I used to vamp a lot with respect to the ingredients, but it’s a lot easier these days to get the right ones, and to make something, even in the West, which actually tastes like the real thing. (Not so for Green Papaya Salad, which I think is irreproducible outside of Thailand itself. This book has a recipe for “Green Mango Salad” which is OK, but not as good. It does, however, offer many suggestions for ingredient substitutions, most of which work pretty well.) The Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup (Dom Yam Gung) is particularly good. (The recipe is at the end of this webpage, which seems otherwise interminable, and incoherent, with photos, some of which are obviously of something else, and in which the chef (Chrissy Teigan) describes how she made it all wrong, and it was awful. It’s delicious when I make it.)

    The BALTI Cookbook, Hamlyn Classics Regional Cookery: A small book with nice recipes for various stews, chutneys and desserts. I like to buy a local cookbook as a remembrance of a vacation or visit, and this was one of them.

    • #19
  20. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Question for the curry lovers here:

    Is it possible to cook curry without marinating yourself in curry? My Indian neighbors often have such a strong odor of curry that I wonder if they have curry air freshener or curry soap. Seriously, my friend Silence, who has trouble smelling anything, is able to smell it clearly just walking by their door.

    I love Jambalaya and Thai curry. I usually don’t get it super spicy, since I like being able to taste the food, and hot enough spice will TKO my taste buds.

    • #20
  21. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Question for the curry lovers here:

    Is it possible to cook curry without marinating yourself in curry?

    No, I think that’s part of its charm. :)

    My Indian neighbors often have such a strong odor of curry that I wonder if they have curry air freshener or curry soap. Seriously, my friend Silence, who has trouble smelling anything, is able to smell it clearly just walking by their door.

    Reminds me of Granny and Grandpa, who had Pakistani neighbors in Birmingham (UK) in the early 60s. They were lovely people, and everyone got along great, but Granny wasn’t happy about the culinary masterpieces being produced next door, and never stopped complaining about them.

    I love Jambalaya and Thai curry. I usually don’t get it super spicy, since I like being able to taste the food, and hot enough spice will TKO my taste buds.

    Yes, I like to be able to taste the flavors too, and I’m not one for just more and more pepper. I like a combination of spices involved in my “hot.”

     

    • #21
  22. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Is it possible to cook curry without marinating yourself in curry?

    An Indian bishop was visiting his family in Atlanta one week. He came to dinner at my parents’ house several times. My mother mentioned to me that he had a very strong aroma of something (not unpleasant, but not familiar.) She assumed it was probably an Indian curry spice from his family’s cooking. It turned out that it was a chest rub he was using to prevent getting sick while in America!

    • #22
  23. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    EB (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Is it possible to cook curry without marinating yourself in curry?

    An Indian bishop was visiting his family in Atlanta one week. He came to dinner at my parents’ house several times. My mother mentioned to me that he had a very strong aroma of something (not unpleasant, but not familiar.) She assumed it was probably an Indian curry spice from his family’s cooking. It turned out that it was a chest rub he was using to prevent getting sick while in America!

    Well, I’m still not convinced it didn’t have something to do with curry–rubbing one’s chest with curry paste would probably have much the same effect as Vicks VapoRub or similar!

    • #23
  24. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    She (View Comment):

    The suggestions sound delicious. @rushbabe49, how funny that you found excellent curry up there in James Herriott country. Reminded me a bit (although not of curry) of a “steak and ale pie” lunch that Mr. She and I had at a little pub not far from Tintern Abbey, on what was also a rainy day, when we were sightseeing and doing pub lunches all over the place.

    La Tapada (View Comment):
    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10

    I made Thai red curry paste from scratch once. It was an olfactory and visual feast, and, since I used a stone mortar and pestle, rather than cheating with a food processor, I had worked up an appetite by the time I was done. It was good, hot and spicy.

    and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food)

    Tell us more, please @latapada. I know nothing about Peruvian food.

    Start with the aji pepper, Peru’s version of the chili pepper. If you can find a good Peruvian restaurant in your area, try the lomo saltado, papa a la huancaina, ceviche or anticuchos. Ask for aji sauce. (Or come to my house.)

    • #24
  25. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    She held the menus she’d reclaimed from us over her mouth and laughed, “Oh, Hon, you can’t eat Thai spicy.”

    “Darlin’, you can’t make it spicy enough.”

    When the bowl of soup came out, all the kitchen staff were peering out of the sides of the swing doors. When the bowl was put in front of me, I immediately teared up and started snottin’. This’ll do, I thought. I ate the whole bowl, with minimal crying and begging for the pain to end.

    We were rockstars there, everafter.

    Growing up in New Mexico, I eat spicy food. Every now and then I come across something purporting to be a “New Mexican” restaurant elsewhere in the country.

    Every time, I go in (because you can’t find carne adovada anywhere else–it’s like a pork Vindaloo, made with red chile) and, just from the salsa they serve with the chips and salsa, I have to show my NM ID and say, “No, seriously, bring me the real stuff”. And they always say, “Oh, we can’t serve anything too hot”. So it’s always disappointing.

    Thai, Indian, Chinese… those I like hot.

    Buffalo sauce? Not so much, because “hotter” normally involves a bunch of vinegar, which isn’t hot, it just makes it hurt.

    • #25
  26. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    La Tapada (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    The suggestions sound delicious. @rushbabe49, how funny that you found excellent curry up there in James Herriott country. Reminded me a bit (although not of curry) of a “steak and ale pie” lunch that Mr. She and I had at a little pub not far from Tintern Abbey, on what was also a rainy day, when we were sightseeing and doing pub lunches all over the place.

    La Tapada (View Comment):
    We had a local Thai restaurant where you could order the level of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10

    I made Thai red curry paste from scratch once. It was an olfactory and visual feast, and, since I used a stone mortar and pestle, rather than cheating with a food processor, I had worked up an appetite by the time I was done. It was good, hot and spicy.

    and I (having grown up on spicy Peruvian food)

    Tell us more, please @latapada. I know nothing about Peruvian food.

    Start with the aji pepper, Peru’s version of the chili pepper. If you can find a good Peruvian restaurant in your area, try the lomo saltado, papa a la huancaina, ceviche or anticuchos. Ask for aji sauce. (Or come to my house.)

    Sounds delicious, thanks! I googled, and there are a couple of Peruvian restaurants in the area (don’t know if they are good or not, I will have to do the research and have a look at the menus). If they’re not up to snuff, I’ll be over!

    • #26
  27. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    She held the menus she’d reclaimed from us over her mouth and laughed, “Oh, Hon, you can’t eat Thai spicy.”

    “Darlin’, you can’t make it spicy enough.”

    When the bowl of soup came out, all the kitchen staff were peering out of the sides of the swing doors. When the bowl was put in front of me, I immediately teared up and started snottin’. This’ll do, I thought. I ate the whole bowl, with minimal crying and begging for the pain to end.

    We were rockstars there, everafter.

    Growing up in New Mexico, I eat spicy food. Every now and then I come across something purporting to be a “New Mexican” restaurant elsewhere in the country.

    Every time, I go in (because you can’t find carne adovada anywhere else–it’s like a pork Vindaloo, made with red chile) and, just from the salsa they serve with the chips and salsa, I have to show my NM ID and say, “No, seriously, bring me the real stuff”. And they always say, “Oh, we can’t serve anything too hot”. So it’s always disappointing.

    Thai, Indian, Chinese… those I like hot.

    Buffalo sauce? Not so much, because “hotter” normally involves a bunch of vinegar, which isn’t hot, it just makes it hurt.

    I’m with you on too much vinegar. I like “hot and sour soup,” though, have a good recipe for it, although I go easy on the vinegar, and probably ramp up the hot.

    My secret culinary weapon for adding heat to almost anything that’s a bit bland is a bottle of toasted sesame oil in which I’ve marinated a generous proportion of crushed red pepper flakes. I buy the sesame oil by the 1/2 gallon or so at the Asian food store, and the crushed red pepper in a large bag at Pennzeys (yes, I know they are Lefties) in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (not that kind of strip). Get a nice-looking bottle (I use an old olive oil bottle), carefully fill it about 1/2 full with crushed pepper flakes, and then top up with the toasted sesame oil. Let it marinate for a couple of weeks before using . It keeps forever, and I just keep topping it up, and every so often adding another tablespoon or so of pepper flakes. (The flakes will settle, so if you just want the oil, don’t shake before pouring; if you want some pepper flakes, shake it first). If I do find it “wanting,” at some point, and seemingly losing its oomph, I start another one. But I think the bottle I have now started about ten years ago and it’s still going strong.

    • #27
  28. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    She (View Comment):

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    She held the menus she’d reclaimed from us over her mouth and laughed, “Oh, Hon, you can’t eat Thai spicy.”

    “Darlin’, you can’t make it spicy enough.”

    When the bowl of soup came out, all the kitchen staff were peering out of the sides of the swing doors. When the bowl was put in front of me, I immediately teared up and started snottin’. This’ll do, I thought. I ate the whole bowl, with minimal crying and begging for the pain to end.

    We were rockstars there, everafter.

    Growing up in New Mexico, I eat spicy food. Every now and then I come across something purporting to be a “New Mexican” restaurant elsewhere in the country.

    Every time, I go in (because you can’t find carne adovada anywhere else–it’s like a pork Vindaloo, made with red chile) and, just from the salsa they serve with the chips and salsa, I have to show my NM ID and say, “No, seriously, bring me the real stuff”. And they always say, “Oh, we can’t serve anything too hot”. So it’s always disappointing.

    Thai, Indian, Chinese… those I like hot.

    Buffalo sauce? Not so much, because “hotter” normally involves a bunch of vinegar, which isn’t hot, it just makes it hurt.

    I’m with you on too much vinegar. I like “hot and sour soup,” though, have a good recipe for it, although I go easy on the vinegar, and probably ramp up the hot.

    My secret culinary weapon for adding heat to almost anything that’s a bit bland is a bottle of toasted sesame oil in which I’ve marinated a generous proportion of crushed red pepper flakes. I buy the sesame oil by the 1/2 gallon or so at the Asian food store, and the crushed red pepper in a large bag at Pennzeys (yes, I know they are Lefties) in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (not that kind of strip). Get a nice-looking bottle (I use an old olive oil bottle), carefully fill it about 1/2 full with crushed pepper flakes, and then top up with the toasted sesame oil. Let it marinate for a couple of weeks before using . It keeps forever, and I just keep topping it up, and every so often adding another tablespoon or so of pepper flakes. (The flakes will settle, so if you just want the oil, don’t shake before pouring; if you want some pepper flakes, shake it first). If I do find it “wanting,” at some point, and seemingly losing its oomph, I start another one. But I think the bottle I have now started about ten years ago and it’s still going strong.

    I tried making chili oil a while ago, but it’s really cheap to buy, and kinda a pain to make, so that’s what I’m going with these days.

    • #28
  29. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    If I had to explain my affinity for hot food, I might trace it back to West Africa and something called “Jollof Rice.”

    Recipes abound on the Internet, but this one and this one have more of the character of what I remember than most. “My” Jollof Rice didn’t have any wifty bits of vegetables or meat visible in it.

    It was some fiercely hot stuff. I loved it.

    • #29
  30. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    My secret culinary weapon for adding heat to almost anything that’s a bit bland is a bottle of toasted sesame oil in which I’ve marinated a generous proportion of crushed red pepper flakes. I buy the sesame oil by the 1/2 gallon or so at the Asian food store, and the crushed red pepper in a large bag at Pennzeys (yes, I know they are Lefties) in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (not that kind of strip). Get a nice-looking bottle (I use an old olive oil bottle), carefully fill it about 1/2 full with crushed pepper flakes, and then top up with the toasted sesame oil. Let it marinate for a couple of weeks before using . It keeps forever, and I just keep topping it up, and every so often adding another tablespoon or so of pepper flakes. (The flakes will settle, so if you just want the oil, don’t shake before pouring; if you want some pepper flakes, shake it first). If I do find it “wanting,” at some point, and seemingly losing its oomph, I start another one. But I think the bottle I have now started about ten years ago and it’s still going strong.

    I tried making chili oil a while ago, but it’s really cheap to buy, and kinda a pain to make, so that’s what I’m going with these days.

    That certainly works too. I really like the toasted sesame oil base, though.

     

    • #30

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