Other countries have spicy food but only Thailand’s will actually incapacitate you.
When I lived in my craphole apartment in Bangkok, the highlight of my life was the daily meal at my favorite restaurant down the road, a literal hole in the wall, which had two tables with short plastic chairs, a close-up view of the highway and an abundance of cockroaches. However, it also a spicy fish salad called Yum Pla Duk Foo which left me sweating and helpless and totally cracked-out happy. They say spicy food releases feel-good chemicals and whoever they are must be right.
Post-meal, my boyfriend Jonny and I would sit and stare at each other, unable to speak except in short bursts, eyes watering and mouths hanging slightly open to get a small breeze onto our throbbing tongues. Taking a sip of beer was the best feeling ever even if it seemed to multiply the hot molecules.
The feeling was addictive and now, when I eat straight up American or Dutch food I often find myself longing for the completely unsubtle spice the sour undercurrent and the hotness that grows in your mouth with each bite. I don’t remember being much of a spice queen before Thailand but ever since, I can’t get enough. I am the person who asks for extra hot sauce at restaurants. Who needs Tapatio on her brunch food.
I have an extensive collection of chili-based condiments at home. From Sambal to curry to my precious ground up Thai peppers. My love of food has become dominated by a love of spice.
I am nearly positive that my taste buds have been damaged by this passion but the things I have learned about which kind of spicy to put on what kind of delicious food item are priceless.
My top five favorites:
Thai Red Curry Paste
The basis of a whole meal. This stuff mixed with some fish sauce (YES. Fish Sauce. Yum.), a little palm sugar, a can of coconut milk and your favorite vegetables makes life much happier.
A newer addition to my repertoire of mouth-watering spiciness, Sambal is a chunky Indonesian sauce (almost like a chili salsa) that has a sweeter flavor but can still be seriously hot depending what variety you buy. Sambal is perfect on pizza. Also, do not touch your nose, eyes or nether regions after eating Sambal pizza.
I put this in nearly everything, but because of its fine texture it is best for spicing up some soup. It is really hot and delicious.
Sriracha has legions of fans so I hardly need explaining why “rooster sauce” is amazing. But if you don’t have a bottle go out and find some. I love it with sliced avocado or on top of eggs and spinach. (Note: Wasa crackers, avocado and Sriracha are a delicious snack. Also. Wasa crackers are harder than molars.)
Prik Nam Pla
Remember what I was saying about loving fish sauce? I do. I really do. One time I left a bottle in my ex’s refrigerator and it spilled the day he was moving. Lets just say, the stuff is made from fish and shellfish oils and it smells really nasty. If you can get past the smell however (many people can’t), it is an amazing salty flavor-adder far better than salt or soy sauce. Mixed with sliced fresh chili it is called Prik Nam Pla and it is a basic table condiment like salt and often tops fried noodle and egg dishes. This stuff is really spicy and miraculous and might give you a spicy-high.