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Spicey Food

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hello, I have a question that has very practical application.  For my own palate I've never been able to tolerate/enjoy food that uses a hot spice so I have avoided Indian and most Mexican food as well.  I know that I will need to cook with the peppers spices in those foods, and I know that one of the main rules in cooking is to taste everything before serving.  So this leads me to my question, how can I train my palate to actually enjoy spice food? This is one road block I do currently see in my culinary journey.


Thank You,

post #2 of 7

Hello and welcome to Cheftalk.


There is a lot of talk about "spicy" foods being hot when in fact this is not true.

Spice and hot are 2 different things. When most people talk about spicy foods they mean hot but you are a budding culinarian, so let's set the record straight right away ok? Spices are the nuts, and seeds of plants....that's all.

Indian and Mexican foods utilize more than just chilies and peppers for flavor. 


Now, that being said, the best way to get acquainted with spicy foods is to cook with them. In your case you are trying to accept these foods and get used to the spice. Try making a recipe or 2 but don't put the recipe required amount of spice in....if the recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon, you put in a 1/8th teaspoon and taste it. After a while as you progress your tolerance for some spices may get better.

post #3 of 7

The only real way is to try it. I was in your shoes when I was really young and would complain about too much black pepper, thinking it was hot. I started cooking with hotter things so I could use them in my cooking and get acquainted with them. You will develop a tolerance over time, I started using jalopenos and cayenne pepper, hot but nothing too crazy and now its to the point where I enjoy hot things. Took awhile though.

post #4 of 7

About 2 years ago i was same kind of situations, but after that i`m kind of slowmotion to start using chilies and other spices. Just hate that many people who like chilies and that kind stuff, put that sooo much in the food, so u dont taste that main ingredient anymore... 


post #5 of 7

In my personal experience tolerance to capsaicin and piperine (respectively the chemicals that make chili peppers and peppercorns hot) increases with regular consumption. However I've never seen data to support this supposition, though it's oft repeated by chili pepper aficionados. So if you want to be less sensitive to heat, then using chili peppers, hot sauces and the like more often might be the cure. 


I'm somewhat in the opposite position, as I can stand a fair amount of heat and live in a country (Finland) where that level of heat isn't really appreciated (though it's changing slowly). I've relied on using customer feedback and advice from other chefs and students to figure out what canteen-acceptable and restaurant-acceptable levels of heat feel like to my palate. 


In that vein, do we as chefs/cooks/aspiring culinary professionals really need to enjoy everything we make in order to be good and know whether or not a dish will be enjoyed by the customer? To me, cold terrines and pâteś taste like dog food (yes, I do know, thank you curious childhood) but I can still differentiate good from bad. Isn't that enough?

post #6 of 7

Spices are the nuts, and seeds of plants....that's all.


If we're going into edjumakatin' mode, ChefRoss, let's at least get it right.


Spices are the hard parts of plants. Certainly that includes nuts and seeds. But it also includes the roots, bark, buds,  husks, non-nut pods, and, sometimes, the fruits.


Herbs, on the other hand, are the soft parts of plants, which includes stems, leaves, and flowers.


Most of the time we harvest one of the other from a plant. But sometimes---as with coriander---we use the plant both as an herb and a spice.


Otherwise you're absolutely correct: spicy and hot are not necessarily synonyms. And the best way of learning to cook with them is to cook with them, to learn both their individual and combined flavor profiles, and the amount of heat, if any, they add to the food.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #7 of 7

what a great question/thread.

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