How To Eat Spicier Food (And Actually Enjoy It!)
If you’re a big fan of Indian cuisine, but you don’t have the best tolerance for spicy foods, you may find yourself having some trouble eating popular dishes.
Some dishes like vindaloo, for example, rely on relatively high levels of spicy peppers and seasonings to provide them with their unique flavor.
So, how can you eat spicier food, and make sure you actually enjoy it – rather than turning into a sweaty mess?
In this guide, we’ll discuss a few steps you can take to make eating spicy food more enjoyable. If you’re interested in eating spicier food, give it a look – and see what tips you can use to boost your own personal spice tolerance!
1. Start Small – And Build Your Tolerance!
You can’t just jump into ordering the spiciest food on the menu at your favorite restaurant. You need to work up to it! That’s not just an old wives’ tale! It’s a fact.
As you eat more foods that contain capsaicin, which is the compound responsible for the sensations of heat in our mouths, you’ll develop a resistance to some of its effects.
Capsaicin works on a chemical level, by exposing certain taste receptors in the tongue and mouth to sodium and calcium ions – which cause them to transmit a “hot” signal to the brain. This is where the sensation of heat comes from in our mouths. It’s due to a chemical reaction.
But when you repeatedly expose your tongue and mouth to capsaicin, these calcium ions begin to “close” the receptor door behind them, stopping pain signals from being transmitted.
In addition, if you eat a lot of spicy meals over a long time, the nerve ending actually starts to degrade – and scientists are still not quite sure why.
What does this mean when you break it down? It means that the more spicy food you eat, the more resistant to its effects you will become. Even if you start small – by adding a bit of hot sauce to ketchup, for example, or ordering a dish at a restaurant that’s slightly spicier than you normally would – you’ll begin to build up a better tolerance for the effects of capsaicin. In turn, you’ll be able to handle spicier foods!
2. Eat More Slowly During Spicy Meals
This can be difficult if you tend to eat your meals quickly. But one of the best tips that you can follow to enjoy the heat of a spicy meal without overwhelming your mouth and taste buds is to slow down.
Every time you take another bite of a food that contains capsaicin-rich ingredients like hot peppers, the receptors in your mouth will react accordingly – and the “burning “effect of the spice will be renewed, and enhanced.
Essentially, you’re building up to a higher and higher heat level as you continue to eat. You’re constantly adding more capsaicin to your mouth. The faster you do this, the less time the effects will have to wear off. You’re eating more capsaicin than you can process at once – and this results in a sensation of more heat and “burning.”
Consider eating hot foods more slowly, and even taking bites of other foods while you wait for your mouth to cool down a bit. Have a few bites of spicy curry, for example – and then have a few bites of naan bread, which lacks capsaicin and can help clear some of it out of your mouth. Slow down, relax, and enjoy and savor the compounds and flavors in your food.
You’ll eventually be able to find a good balance, where you’re able to pace yourself properly to keep the heat to a level with which you’re comfortable. It may take a bit of trial and error, as everyone is different, but just take things slow and do your best to enjoy the experience!
3. Ask For Spice On The Side
This isn’t possible at every restaurant. However, many restaurants will be able to leave out the spicy pepper and seasonings that are added to build up the heat level in a dish – and put them on the side for you to add to your food as you prefer.
This is a good way to learn more about your own personal spice tolerance. You can add the spicy sauce or ingredients to your food slowly, until you’ve found a balance that works for you. Then, you can use this information to make a better decision about what spice levels you should ask for in your next meal.
Naturally, you can also incorporate this meal into your home cooking – and it’s a good way you can make dishes for people with multiple levels of spice tolerance. Because they can add the spicy flavors on their own, everyone can get what they want, ensuring the spice level is never too high for each diner.
4. Have Coolant On-Hand (No, Not Water)
Capsaicin, which is the spicy compound in peppers, is not soluble in water. What that means is that when you reach for that icy glass of water after you’ve lit your mouth on fire with a spicy vindaloo and you want to wash away the spicy compounds – nothing will happen.
Sure, the cold water will feel nice while it’s in your mouth, but once you swallow, the capsaicin won’t bond with the water or get washed away or neutralized. Think about how oil and water interact – it’s a similar idea. So, what are you supposed to do when the heat gets to be a bit too much, and you need relief?
Dairy is the answer! Well, dairy and alcohol.
Dairy has organic compounds that can bond with the capsaicin in the mouth, and deactivate them and remove them from the mouth. That’s why some Indian drinks like lassi are such a good choice when you’re eating a spicy dish. The dairy helps remove some capsaicin, decreasing the hot sensation.
Alcohol also has this effect – to an extent. However, only a high concentration of alcohol will be enough to help remove the capsaicinoids. A glass of wine or a beer won’t do too much – because they’re mostly water. However, a shot of vodka or a similar spirit will be more effective.
Some other ways you can relieve the heat of capsaicin is with coconut water or coconut milk, which works similarly to dairy. Some types of acids, like citric acid from lime and lemons, can also help reduce the heat.
So consider getting some kind of beverage like milk or coconut water, or even a few dollops of yogurt to help relieve the heat, and keep your mouth cool while eating spicy foods.
5. Don’t Force It – There’s Nothing Wrong With Not Liking Spicy Foods!
Here’s our last tip – if you really feel like you can’t increase your spice tolerance any more, don’t force it. Some people are more inclined to like spicy foods, and have a higher pain tolerance and can handle the “burning” effects of capsaicin more effectively.
Despite what anyone may want to have you believe, there’s nothing wrong with not liking excessively spicy foods – if it’s not for you, it’s not for you, and that’s perfectly okay. Spiciness is just like any other flavor.
If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t try to force yourself!
So while we would encourage you to break out of your “spiciness comfort zone” every once in a while to test your limits and try something new, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re not a fan of spicy foods.
Even some people in India, for example, aren’t huge fans of spicy food! There’s nothing wrong with ordering a mild, yet flavorful and delicious dish like saag paneer instead of a spicy dish like a vindaloo. It’s important to know your own tastes and preferences. If you won’t enjoy a spicy dish, you shouldn’t order it – or worry about what other people may think!
Some people even have gastrointestinal issues after spicy meals – and if you are susceptible to an upset stomach or acid reflux, very spicy dishes could be harmful to your health. So know your limits and respect your limits. Don’t be afraid to push it every once in a while, but don’t try to eat spicy foods even if you know you won’t enjoy it!
Follow These Tips – And Enjoy The Heat!
If you take the right steps and understand a bit about why spicy foods taste so spicy, you’re sure to be able to increase your spice tolerance a bit – and enjoy the sensation of eating a spicy dish.