Chili Chili Bang Bang

Several years ago the City of London was thrown into a panic by a eye-searing cloud. Police swept the streets for the source of the potential killer only to discover a Thai chef preparing his monthly supply of chilly sauce ‘nam prik pao’.

Firefighters in bio-hazard suits removed the?cooking pot despite the protests of the chef.

“I was making a spicy dip with extra-hot chillies that are deliberately burnt. To us, it smells like burnt chili and it is slightly unusual. I can understand why people who weren’t Thai would not know what it was. But it doesn’t smell like chemicals. I’m a bit confused.”

Anyone driving a motorcycle by a Thai foodstand on Soi Buakhao has been subjected to chili peppers’ choking fumes, however Thais regard the acrid aroma with the same delight Westerners hold for burning BBQ flesh.

I’m partial to chilis having been initiated into their benefits through Mexican food in 1970. The ‘Phoenix Bar’ on Commonwealth Avenue was the only Mexican restaurant in Boston. The beers were 25 cents and shots a dollar. BU co-eds loved playing pinball and the juke box had two songs by the MC5. The Mexican chef had one arm and prided herself in her blinding chili sauce and rightfully so because Mexico is the source of the chili pepper.

Thais refuse to believe their signature spice is farang.

Peppers have been discovered in 13th century graves in Europe, however Christopher Columbus introduced the Mexican chili to the ‘civilized’ world and ‘Capsicum frutescens’ soon spread along the trading routes into Asia, as people recognized its nutritional values as well as its propensity to accelerated the heart rate and facilitate the release of the body’s natural painkilling chemical, endorphin.

Londoners in Soho were not so receptive and neither are most farangs in Thailand, who regard chilis as a poison, especially when they exit from the other end of the digestive system.

Me I eat them regularly and can handle most everything in Thailand, except those chicken feet in the Chinese soup.


Run for your lives.

Ying Gai La-wang.

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