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Jul 31, 2003 12:52 PM

Wanted: Extremely Spicy Thai or Indian Food

  • c

I love spicy food, alot. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any place that will make their vindaloo spicy enough for me to break a sweat. (Perhaps it is just that the Menlo / Palo Alto area serves a less masochistic pallete.)

Does anyone have any good recommendations on high-quality, high-intensity Thai / Indian restaurants in the Bay Area?

Many thanks.

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  1. I don't get down to the South Bay much, but when I do, I go to Mayuri on El Camino. Their food is spicy enough to kick my butt, and that's saying something. I'm not talking about the buffet; that's not spicy at all.


    1 Reply
    1. re: JB

      I'm a huge fan of mayuri, because hot there is deep and tasty. The hot dipping sauce with their Dosas is, er, bold, and you don't have to order it hot. Chicken 65 there is quite nice. However, I wouldn't call it "extreme", except that it's extremely good and extremely cheap (agreed, not the buffet).

      I find Darbar's vindaloo worth a trip. It's not blinding, but it's hot, with a lot of complexity. Amber is too gentil, P2I doesn't have the chops in the kitchen. In the old days, the reference vindaloo was Sue's Kitchen in MV, but I haven't been since they changed hands.

      Regrettably, the hottest thai place also changed hands. That's the old Woodside Thai Spot (593 Woodside Rd, Redwood City). I went there soon after and it had some of its signature heat, so it's worth a try. Sorry I've forgotten the current name.

      Amarin in MV will bump it up, but not cause actual blindness and next-day burning. I rather like their 'spicy' . 'Thai Hot' for the hot dishes, like Cashew Chicken, is above what the girlfriend will eat, and close to what I've had in Chang Mai. I had a bland string of meals at their sister, Bangkok Cuisine on Lytton, but BC has shaped up. They're OK if you talk sternly to them. Both actually cook the dish hotter, instead of dumping prepared chili sauce on at the end.

      One place, I think Thai Spoons in Sunnyvale, I actually sent a dish back twice. If you're not getting spicy food somewhere, send a dish back. Once you're known to a thai chef, you'll get what you like.

      Re: Ruen Pair, I never had good luck getting spicy food there. Maybe I just didn't go when the main chef was there.

      Ruen Pair
      1045 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

      Bangkok Cuisine
      407 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

    2. k
      Kathleen Mikulis

      I suggest My Thai in Fremont:

      It's at Fremont Blvd. near Decoto & serves food mild, medium, hot, and fire (if you order fire you get your picture taken for the "wall of fire"). We brought an Indian born friend of mine (who eats spicy Indian food all the time) as a ringer because we knew he'd order his food "fire" so we'd get on "the wall". I tried the tiniest bite of his dish and there was pain. Even the mild is pretty spicy there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Kathleen Mikulis

        Second on My Thai, also recommended for their vegetarian menu.

        My Thai Restaurant
        1230 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

      2. A buddy of mine goes to Take it Easy Thai in downtown Oakland. The people working there laugh when he comes in and they've taken the challenge to see if they can hurt him. He still alive, so... Granted, you have to ask for it.

        13 Replies
        1. re: SLRossi

          I ate lunch at Take It Easy frequently when I worked near there. The people there are really nice -- the name of the place says it all -- although the food is cheap and therefore not made with great ingredients.

          I'd try Ruen Pair in Albany and order it "Thai hot."

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            We had dinner at Ruen Pair last weekend, and I can attest that the Naked Prawn Papaya Salad and the Raw Blue Crab Papaya Salad were so hot that we all thought we were going to pass out. I love hot food, but this was insanely hot. I thought I was going to have blisters on my lips. Although both dishes were delicious, I would not order either of them again without a long talk with the waitress about toning down the heat by about 75%. That said, these dishes might be just what you're looking for. The entrees didn't have anything approaching that amount of heat, but clearly they're capable of it if you want it.

            1. re: Berkeley Bob

              Yes, the reason I thought of Ruen Pair is that their food isn't as sweet as much Thai food in this country is, and therefore is not as Americanized.

              Speaking of which, did you see the ridiculous Michael Bauer review of an "upscale" Thai place in the City where he talked about the "untraditionally" hot larb gai and implied the food being sweet was a good thing?


              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Many dishes prepared for Thai tastes are quite sweet...but they're also quite sour, hot, and salty too...more of everything for a wallop of flavor in balance. The Americanization comes in with adding so much sugar that it dominates the blend.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  However, as described in the article that's exactly what this restaurant is doing. It was unclear to me whether Bauer approved of this, but he didn't explicitly criticize it, he did recommend the restaurant, and he did give it primo Sunday magazine review coverage, thus giving sugared Thai food his imprimatur.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Maybe I'm missing the passage you're referring to. But given the discovery that things can change in the on-line edition, let me quote back this from the article you linked -

                    "However, the seasoning level tends to be a little uneven from dish to dish. Phanthong admits that some diners find a few dishes too spicy, so at times she adds extra sugar, particularly with some of the curried noodle dishes. Cooking for an "American" palate is a problem faced by most Asian restaurants. There are no obvious paths - everyone wants a full restaurant and to cook food that pleases - but I've found that when chefs follow their own palates, they win customers. People are drawn to passion, and chefs who prepare what they love seem to cook with more consistency and confidence."

                    I think this states his position pretty clearly, that chefs should cook to their own tastes to build a customer base. In this case, not to add so much sugar.

                    Jeez, who would have ever thought I'd be defending MB? (G)

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Yup, that's the passage.

                      I just thought he was being unnecessarily oblique. I think if he really felt that the cuisine shouldn't be dumbed down for American tastes he could have said so. In fact, if he really feels that way about oversweetened Thai food, then he could have used this opportunity to lament the fact that (according to reports on this board) almost every Thai restaurant in the City has gone that direction.

                      Instead, by talking about "paths that are not obvious" and using non-specific terms like "chef's palate" and "cooking with consistency and confidence" he sounded like he was obscuring the point in order to placate those same people -- his readership base -- who make for a "full restaurant."

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        You're right, it is a weird paragraph. Why bring it up at all if not to take a firmer stand? Guess he finds the same bind in appealing to mass market that the restaurants do.


                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Does the article mention where the chef/owner are from? It's worth pointing out that food of Bangkok and surrounds is considered the sweetest in Thailand, exemplified in the difference betw. a som tam tai ("Thai"-style with dried shrimp) and a som tam puu (with preserved crab). If ordered side-by-side from the same vendor the former is usually sweeter.
                          Northerners, from Issaan and beyond, often complain that Thai food as prepared in Bangkok is too sweet.

                          1. re: foodfirst
                            Melanie Wong

                            Thanks for highlighting the differences in Thai regional tastes/cooking. Sometimes when I ask a restaurant what style of cooking they prepare, they'll say Bangkok or palace style and that usually means sweet and creamy.

                            The restaurant is named Koh Samui, apparently because the owner-couple met there.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Given the name, would it be too much to hope that they are serving some Koh Samui specialties, like wai khua (dried squid curry), yam sarai khaw (a seaweed yam), gaeng som with lots of turmeric, and khuy jee (grated coconut mixed with shrimp paste -- usu. served with coconut rice)?

                              1. re: foodfirst

                                I was there once, and my impression was that the food had been pretty much dumbed down from what I've had during trips to Thailand. Would be interesting to go for a dinner or lunch with someone who was familiar with the authentic cuisine.

          2. re: SLRossi

            Agreed. Take it Easy is more like "Thai fast food" in my opinion, but once they know you love it hot, they just keep dishing it on.

            After ordering "hot" when eating there and having to ask for the spice dish, I noticed that both my "hot" and my "medium" orders were getting spicier -- "medium" was now what "hot" used to be. One time, my chili beef had the pieces of more than twenty hot peppers, and I actually couldn't finish it.

            But I think most Thai places that have at least somewhat spicy dishes will jazz it up if you're a regular and explain to them that you have a high tolerance. An ex-coworker I used to eat with would quip with the waiter when I asked for food "extra spicy", daring the server to come back with a dish I couldn't eat. Amazing what that will do!

            Hot Indian places? I've yet to meet a vindaloo that was too spicy.

          3. You might want to check out the Sunday lunch offered at the Thai Temple in San Bruno. Shown below is the green papaya salad. It's made to order and you can taste test it to see if it's hot enough for you, and have them add more chilis. Several other dishes that are made "Thai hot". More details in the thread linked below.



            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I agree with Melanie. This is the place to go for super spicy. I ordered the green papaya salad once and specified, "mild spicy." I was in tears eating it. Now I know to order, "not spicy." (I like spicy food but now don't eat it often enough to maintain a high tolerance level, which I used to have.)

            2. Sabuy Sabuy (at College and Broadway in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland) would make their food extremely hot when I asked for it. It's not exactly the best Thai food--my main complaint being not-quite-fresh vegetables--but definitely along the upper half of the spectrum of Thai restaurants in the bay area.

              3 Replies
              1. re: nja

                You know, I've eaten at Sabuy Sabuy and when they make something "hotter"' they just add more dried chili or some sliced green chilies. The problem with the dumbing down of Thai food in America is also that the chiles don't get cooked the way they would in Thailand. The curry paste is made very hot, then it is fried, the flavors blend together, and nirvana results. Just adding a few extra chilies near the end of the cooking process in no way replicates the flavor of real Thai or Indian food.

                1. re: Denise B

                  Yeah, I'll give you that. It's like the spice is sitting on top of the food, rather than coming from within it. Like I said, not the best Thai food around.

                2. re: nja

                  You know, I've eaten at Sabuy Sabuy and when they make something "hotter"' they just add more dried chili or some sliced green chilies. The problem with the dumbing down of Thai food in America is also that the chiles don't get cooked the way they would in Thailand. The curry paste is made very hot, then it is fried, the flavors blend together, and nirvana results. Just adding a few extra chilies near the end of the cooking process in no way replicates the flavor of real Thai or Indian food.