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Nov 5, 2006 05:41 PM

Looking for a Word to Describe Different Eateries' Notions of "Spicy Hot"

Here’s the scenario. You go to some place that serves a spicy cuisine: Mexican food, Thai food, Chinese food, Caribbean food, what-have-you. You order some food and when they ask you how hot (spicy) you want it you say “medium.”

On the one hand, some places will bring you food that is truly medium hot; it seems that they make a clear distinction between mild, medium, and hot. On the other hand, some places will bring you food that they say is medium but is really mild; it seems that they only distinguish between very mild, mild, and slightly-hotter-than-mild.

What I’m looking for is a word or a label that describes this discrepancy or these two different interpretations of the mild-medium-hot scale. My wife and I sometimes call the latter “gringo hot” or “gringo-ified” since it seems to be a hot that’s been toned down for a Northern European/American palate.

I’d like a word that can work as an adjective to describe restaurants and eateries when reporting to forums like Chowhound. For example, I’d like to be able to say something like, “We really liked the menu choices, but the food wasn’t <insert term here> because we ordered it spicy and it came “gringo hot,” or “On the <insert term here> scale this eatery comes in at a 9 out of 10 because we ordered it medium and it came authentically medium.”

Any ideas? Thanks for your help.

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  1. I really hate, despise, and abhore the term Eatery., What idiot came up with that anyway? Why not just have a tiney Scoville scale next tot the dish as some prepared products have to let purchasers have an idea of heat level?

    1. I think it would mean more to people if you simply rate menu spiciness by how many handkerchiefs you needed to get through the meal. Five or more nose wipes would mean it's pretty heady stuff. None would give everyone a clear idea that even a wimp could get through it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Steve

        I considered using something like scoville units (and I like the image of specifying a number of hankies).

        The problem I'm having, though, is not explaining how hot the food is, but whether the restaurants actually make it hot (when you ask for it) as opposed to making it mild.

      2. You could try asking for it "half as hot as 'hot'", which might approximate how spicy you want it. That way, the chef can use half the cayenne (or whatever) as would normally be used to make it hot.

        1. Any rating scale other than a chemical assay is going to be meaningless. Just as there is no standard on the resto side, "heat" is subjective in the normally served ranges. What might only be one hanky for me is enough to put others off food for a week.

          1. I find that at the local teriyaki place I frequent, "Little bit spicy" can be anywhere from barely anything to post-apocalyptic, apparently depending on the chef's mood at the time. I know that the Thai places around here use stars (e.g. 1 star for little to no spiciness, all the way up to five stars for "Bring on the pain" levels of heat. ) I generally go around 3 stars when I eat at these places.) Again, it's all pretty much subjective though, but it is a bit less ambiguous.