A guide to handling Asia’s spicy food

Your mouth feels as if it’s on fire, your tongue is in agony and you can feel the tears flowing down and your face going as red as the chili in the food you just ingested. The locals opposite you are watching your face with a mix of interest and concern while your more spice savvy friends are chuckling.

Ring any bells?

The culprit in this pain that you end up in after consuming spicy food is capsaicin, a chemical compound that acts as an irritant for those who consume it.

The higher the amounts of capsaicin, the spicier the chili is bound to be.

Can I do anything to stop my mouth feeling as it’s overrun by lava?

Fear not, there are many easy fixes.

Capsaicin is fat-soluble and we recommend downing some milk. Go for milk with full fat as this will act the fastest.

You can also try some lassi or any other yogurt drink that will help rid your mouth of the capsaicin you just ingested.

Ice cream or any other milk-based sweet is also a good cure for the burning tongue.

In extreme circumstances, you can try to swirl some vegetable oil in your mouth.

Do however remember that water does not help. It only produces temporary relief on account of its cooling properties and will only make you feel worse as it will help redistribute the capsaicin.

But does this mean I can never enjoy spicy food?

Of course not. Everyone is capable of eating and even enjoying spicy food. No, really.

This, however, does take some practice.

Prepare- eating and enjoying spicy food takes some getting used to. It is, therefore, best if you start adding some spices to the food made at home prior to your departure. Progressive steps such as this will help you build your tolerance and help ease you into the spicy food awaiting you.

Eat slow- capsaicin takes around 15 minutes to leave your tongue. It is therefore wise to eat slow, instead of compounding the agony on your taste buds by eating spicy food in a hurry.

Don’t force it- the motto “no pain, no gain” does not apply here. You do not want to end up with stomach ulcers or heartburn.