how hot is too hot?

Chili wine, chili chocolate, chili ice cream, chili cheese …….. The list goes on.

Chili con carne

Vindaloo (no sir you cannot order a mild vindaloo)

Fire cracker chicken

Wasabi (No, this is not a chili)

Spicy prawns


I even have a packet of Pineapple Habanero Rocks from The Ole Lollie Shop at Old Petrie Town.

Spicy food has really grabbed our attention and I have to admit I’m a fan. Mind you, I have discovered as I, shall we say, mature – that my bodies’ tolerance for spicy food is changing. These day’s it is more about the flavour than the heat. So yes, I’ll still order the Vindaloo, but I’m a little more choosey about where I order it from. For me, locally, the best Vindaloo you’ll find is at the Indian Mehfil. They seem to understand that magical thing called balance of flavour and whilst you may be able to spice it up a little bit, it’s a Vindaloo, and you can’t spice it down. My recommendation would be the standard one on the menu.

Vindaloo is often made on either goat or mutton – I prefer the goat, though you will typically get bones but I find that the mutton can be quite fatty even though it really lends itself quite nicely to a vindaloo.

We all have that one friend who will go to a spicy restaurant who has this warped sense of belief that, unless your eyeballs are bleeding, and drops of fire water are pouring out of the sweat glands of your skin, than you’re not a real man. I have had the pleasure of sitting across the table from one of these muppets, eyes watering, nose running like a river, gasping for breath like there’s no tomorrow and professing that this is awesome, I’m having a great meal. My question to that is always “are you really”? I must say I’m awfully glad that I don’t live in that person’s house, as retribution will no doubt follow through the very next day.

If you learn to respect the spicy food, you can certainly branch out and be prepared to order different items on the menu, because spice does not always mean hot. Sure, there are some people who absolutely cannot tolerate spicy food, but I find, if you talk to the waiter and ask some questions, they can often lead you to something that is a good starter place to try something new, or, even do a little research before you go to the restaurant. We find that share tables are a good way to stretch your palette. We often order things that our friends won’t order and vice versa, which gives each person at the table the opportunity to try something new.

Historically speaking there was a time that our palletes were not nearly as diverse as they are now. Remember, there was a time when all we ate was meat and three veg, and the spiciest thing on the table was the salt and pepper? I was mulling over when this started to change and the snowy mountain hydro-electric scheme came to mind. Over the period from 1949 to 1974 this scheme had a workforce where 65% was made up of 30 separate nationalities. So, if you think about it, this project could very well have been the pivot point for multi-cultural food in Australia. Just my thoughts, but I could be wrong – so please feel free to share your thoughts.

I remember a time in the 70’s where The Australian Women’s Weekly got very excited about Apricot Chicken (a dish I personally can’t stand), because that was the trendy food at the time. The most exciting thing you could order from the local takeaway was a deep fried banana or pineapple.

We now live in a time where it is common place to grow chili in our own garden and the chili flakes live pride of place next to the salt and pepper on the dining room table. I personally like to grow it in the garden for the pops of colour and it adds an ornamental element. Of course, there is the added advantage of being able to duck outside and grab some chili for your thai salad! A word of caution for those that have youngsters around, those bright colours do attract little fingers, which end up in little eyes and can lead to not so little screams! We have also become attracted to the ridiculously hot sauces that are now available in stores. It’s beginning to feel like, maybe it is a case of clever marketing, big egos or perhaps a little peer pressure.

So I ask you, whilst we all love a little chili, some more than others, how hot is too hot and where do we draw the line?