Just how much heat can one put on the table? Plenty, as long as it stays on the table and not on my plate.
I do test myself on occasion, my limit is about one third of a red hot Thai chillie pepper. It’s enough to judiciously spank the tongue three or four times, spread eagled out over the course of a meal.
That’s about what you see on this decadently fatty dish of crispy fried pork with basil over rice. I’m so grateful the family run Ran Nong Som restaurant knows exactly how spicy I like it. Btw, they’re a sweet Cambodian family and it’s on Jomtien Beach Road, a few doors past Soi 3.
Many places, due to language differences or spite, will get it wrong and make it more spicy. Like the sweet chili fried fish I had in Bangkok last week. A perfectly good whole fish crispy fried but then smothered to death in a sweet pineapple tamarind sauce that must have had at least 30 of the satanic little devils.
Cheapskate that I am and not wanting to waste an $8 investment, I gulped a swig of Singha and jumped into the fire. Four heroic bites later and I was begging the Lord Buddha for compassion and mercy. A plate of plain rice and two Singhas later and my mouth is still ablaze by the napalm. I won’t even go into the ensuing violence on the throne back at the hotel.
It’s not a good idea to send a dish back in Thailand, especially at the budget eateries because it causes loss of money and face. You might end up with a spit loogie, cigarette ash, or cock roach in your food. Or they will try to twist it around and ask then why did you order spicy? The waiter or the cook most likely will be docked for the error unless you graciously apologise for misordering.
The most important Thai words to know when ordering:
ped = spicy
Ped nit noy = just a little bit spicy
Mai pet = no spicy
Be sure to add ka (if you’re female) or krup (if you’re a male) at the end. It means thank you please ten thousand times, and shows that you’re polite and classy.
Here’s more on ordering spicy foods in Thailand from the fabulously informative “Women Learn Thai” website.
It’s an amusing read with audio pronunciations and the comments are hilarious.