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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some Like It Hot

Some like it hot and some of us don’t!  I usually eat food that is on the milder side.  I do enjoy some spicier Chinese-American food, but when I eat Mexican, I can only eat only a little of the mild salsa.

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Bangalore India as part of a business trip.  I flew from Frankfurt Germany about midday on a Saturday, and arrived at the airport in Bangalore just after midnight Sunday morning.  It was a very wild ride from the airport to the hotel, but I settled in about 2am.  Once I woke up around 10am on Sunday, I had a nice personal guided tour of the city that cost me about $10 for the day.  I had a great time and I was able to sample some of the local fruit and had a good overview of the city.

That night, I met my two local business companions (Malhar and Rakesh) for dinner at a local restaurant.  When I travel, I prefer to eat the native cuisine as I can always eat American food at home.  We had a nice dinner, I ordered a pistachio chicken dish and my companions had a tomato tofu entrée.  When we ordered, Malhar made sure that there was very little spice (by Indian standards) in all the dishes.
My sauce on my pistachio chicken was very thick and rich, between sampling Malhar’s and Rakesh’s dishes as well as my own, I was very full by the end of dinner.  Rakesh invited me to try the salad, which was a three-tiered plate system, and the top tier was a plate of small white onions marinated in vinegar.  The second tier had cucumber slices and the bottom tier contained small green beans.

As I ate my dinner, I was trying everything on the table including the salad.  The problem started when I picked up a bean and ate about half of it.  I chewed the bean and swallowed it and then the fire started in my mouth.  From my mouth it quickly enveloped my entire body.  My eyes may have been open, but I could no longer see.  I drank the last of my beer, all my water and the burning continues.  I found that quickly breathing with my mouth partially closed helped quite a bit. 

Malhar had the waiter bring some sugar and had me place a tablespoon of the sugar in my mouth and hold it on my tongue.  I don’t know if it helped, but it did distract me until the fire stopped.  By this time, I can see again, and notice that all the diners around me are having a good time watching me.  Malhar and Rakesh apologized that they forgot to warn me that what I thought were beans were actually chilies.  I later learned that the most potent chilies in the world come from Northern India and the small ones (as I ate) are the strongest.

The fire inside my body did eventually subside and I was able to continue with dinner.  In the picture where I’m holding the remains of the chili, I have a very forced smile.  Dinner was finished with several types of Indian breath mints.  The one l liked best were Fennel seeds with a sugar coating.  They were a little larger then a cooked grain of rice.  It was a nice was to complete the meal

After this trial by fire, I have found that I have more tolerance to hot and spicy food.  I guess that one chili overloaded many of my spice receptors - go figure!

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