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Is The Food Spicy?

Thais love spicy food
After 43 years in OMF working with the Thai I can usually predict the first couple of questions that strangers ask me: (1) “Do you speak Thai and is it difficult?”; (2) “Is Thai food spicy?” I then try to describe the many times that I have not just cried but actually wept due to a spicy Thai dish and wanted to grab my cell phone to call 191 (emergency number in Thailand) to summon a firetruck to the Thai restaurant. I could swear that the sweat on my forehead could actually spice up a pot of soup!
When you order as a foreigner in Thailand your waitress will often ask you how many chilis you want added to your dish. The scale is usually from 1 to 5 with the lower numbers designating mildly spicy and 5 reserved for only the bravest of customers.
In 1912 a pharmacologist named Wilbur Scoville devised a more scientific way to measure spiciness by assigning Scoville Heat Units (SHU) to peppers and chilis. A bell pepper has 0 SHU, a tobacco chili that you put on your pizza is 30-50K SHU, a jalapeno is 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, but a Carolina Reaper registers 2.2 million SHU! I imagine this pepper got its name from the number of Carolinians that have died due to eating it!
The Thai have often warned me to not be deceived by the size of a pepper because one of the hottest is extremely small – “prik kee nuu” (mouse dropping pepper). If you inadvertently consume a couple of prik kee nuus, my advise is to head for the nearest fridge and down a full carton of milk as fast as you can. If no milk is available, it is helpful to consume the rest of your rice or even better, secure a full bag of ice cubes. The key is not to spread the chili oil onto your lips or especially your eyes.
Missionaries had warned me ahead of time concerning Thai spicy foods, but like most cross-cultural adjustments, I had to learn the hard way. Modifying your diet is just one of many cross-cultural changes that missionaries must make. As you pray for all the spiritual dimensions that Thai missionaries face, be sure to mention the more “mundane” but important day to day adjustments that all we face here in this “Land of Smiles”
Written by Larry Dinkins

Larry has been serving in Thailand since 1980.

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