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"Thai Hot" in the Twin Cities

i
ike. Jan 10, 2007 02:45 PM

How do they compare?

I'm going to King & I this Friday, and it's the second time I will have been there. The first time was a few years back before I was concerned with raising my tolerance for spicy foods. In the past few years I've enjoyed ordering things spicy.

I've had the urge to order dishes as spicy as they're offered, but I tend to wuss out at the last minute. I don't want to ruin a good dinner by overstepping my spice-handling bounds. The first taste of that disappointment was at Bombay Bistro. We both got ordered our vindaloos "hot", but after a few bites we agreed that we totally could've handled "Indian hot".

So back to Thai. A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend and I went to True Thai for my birthday dinner. I got the green shrimp curry, and my choices were mild, medium, hot and "Thai hot". My gf asked how hot the Thai hot really was, but the waiter did't really know how to answer. He suggested ordering "hot" and then he'd bring a spice tray if we wanted more heat. Again, I think we could've handled "Thai hot".

So Friday I'm going to King & I. Do I get "Thai hot"? It's been years since I've been there, and I don't really know how their heat levels compare to that of True Thai. More broadly speaking, how do the Thai places in the TC stack up against one another spice-wise? Are there distinct differences from one place to the next? Let's talk spice.

  1. AliceS Jan 11, 2007 01:27 AM

    I have sort of a policy about this, although I admit it is really more of a principle than a practice: if asked, I like to tell them make it however it should be made, however it tastes best.
    That said, I don't think it is predictable. I would say order it hot and get sriracha sauce to make it hotter if necessary. If the waiter seems amenable, explain your dilemma! And tell us how it works out.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AliceS
      i
      ike. Jan 11, 2007 02:54 AM

      That's an interesting take, Alice. I've never thought of it that way. Unfortunately, my starchy and freckled complexion would likely imply a very Scandinavian spice tolerance. Since I've not recently been overwhelmed by any restaurant's "Hot" level, I'll likely stick with that for this trip. I'll just ask for a spice tray to add where necessary. I'll gauge King and I's take on "Hot" and remember it for the future.

      Plus, if I'm going to end up writhing in capsaicin-induced misery, I want my girlfriend to be there in pain with me. >:)

    2. katebauer Jan 10, 2007 10:33 PM

      It was a great trip, I posted a lot about it on the Greater Asia board. I think what was most eye opening for me was how much fresher and lighter the food was in Thailand. The vegetables were actually crispy, only cooked in the stirfry or curry for a minute or so. Also, we really enjoyed the lighter dishes, many similar to papaya salads and other dishes we have here mixed with meats. Many of our meals were brighter, more pickled and spicy tasting versus the heavy curries. It's definitely going to change my choices at Thai restaurants - I'm going to look more at what our menus call salads versus the stirfrys and curries. That being said, we had the most heavenly, creamy and smooth Massaman curry with chicken and potatoes at a little stall right on the beach. I'll never forget that meal!

      1. s
        StPauliGirl Jan 10, 2007 10:01 PM

        I tend to stay away from "Thai hot" or "hottest hot" options at restaurants, not because I can't handle spicy foods, but because the cooks add more heat simply by adding red pepper flakes. I am specifically referring to experiences at Chiang Mai Thai. The extra spiciness isn't cooked into the food, it's just added on top. When that's the case, I'd rather go with a lower level on the spicy index and have a dish with better overall flavor and balance.

        1. katebauer Jan 10, 2007 09:21 PM

          It just seems like there are so many variables in the equation the question is nearly impossible to answer. I also find that hot varies by restaurant, dish, day, person, etc. Could you get a few dishes between you, one being the hotest, and just share that way you're not starving if it turns out to be too hot? Or at the least you'll have some milder things to cool your palate in between bites of your dish.

          Similar to the Diamond Thai story, we actually just returned from two weeks in Thailand. At several places we asked for hot, the waiter gave us a questioning look, and we said, "yes, hot." Well, I don't feel any of our dishes came back hotter enough. Somehow I think someone didn't put our true order in :).

          1 Reply
          1. re: katebauer
            i
            ike. Jan 10, 2007 10:01 PM

            This isn't a pass-the-plate situation, but I see where you're going with it. You're right that it's kind of a difficult question. As well it should be, I think. If every place was the same, what fun would that be?

            Maybe I can wait until the next time me and the gf go out for Thai (she won't be at this particular dinner). I know she wants to try Thai hot. We could get one Thai hot dish and one that's not so hot to cool us off. That'd probably be the smart way to go.

            And two weeks in Thailand? Talk about a dream trip. I'd love to hear all about it!

          2. Foureyes137 Jan 10, 2007 08:03 PM

            I know your conundrum. "Thai hot" is not only hard to gauge but varies wildly from dish to dish and place to place. The most tame "Thai hot" I've had has been at King & I, so I say go for it. Sawatdee also has realitively mild "Thai hot". Chai's, Tum Rup, Azia and True Thai have all come in the middle with Chiang Mai being the hottest of the "Thai hot".

            But to be fair, even these vary day to day and by whom is cooking. So it's a gamble, but a gamble that just means more endorphins and Singha!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Foureyes137
              i
              ike. Jan 10, 2007 08:15 PM

              Gah, it's so tempting. It may have to be a gametime decision.

              I understand that coconut milk-based dishes are easier to order Thai hot because of the cooling effect of the coconut milk. I'd probably get a red curry, so that would help.

              I guess the cheap side of me just doesn't want a somewhat pricey meal to go to waste because it was wildly hot. Decisions!

            2. l
              Lilbug Jan 10, 2007 07:42 PM

              Your comments about " Thai Hot " remind me of a restaurant we
              used to frequent about 15 years ago. It was called the Diamond
              Thai and was located in the 7 corners area in Mpls. My buddy
              and I would go there and would order our selections " Thai
              Hot ". My friend knew what Thai Hot meant because he had spent
              a year in Thailand. The lady that did the cooking would open
              the swinging doors leading to the kitchen, just a crack,
              to see who it was who placed such a hot order. She would laugh
              when she saw it was us because she knew she could make
              the orders just as hot as she felt they should be to be authentic.
              This place was about the most authentic Thai restaurant in the
              Twin Cities, IMHO. Does anyone remember this place ?

              1. s
                St Paul Susie Jan 10, 2007 07:14 PM

                Get the Thai hot. I love King & I. The flavor of the dishes still shine thru!

                2 Replies
                1. re: St Paul Susie
                  i
                  ike. Jan 10, 2007 07:52 PM

                  I could certainly use the chest hairs, but I don't want to spend more time wiping my nose and sucking ice cubes than enjoying my spicy dinner. How would you describe your spice tolerance? Do you order Thai hot or Indian hot whenever you go out? How does King & I compare to other Thai places in town as far as spice goes?

                  1. re: ike.
                    s
                    St Paul Susie Jan 11, 2007 01:11 AM

                    To be honest - when I go to King & I my friends (who are regulars) do the ordering and I think its mainly thai hot with some regular hot thrown in. I think the curry idea is a good one if you are concerned. Rice helps too.

                    I like all spicy food, indian, thai, mexican.

                    And now guess what I'll be working in to a menu this weekend.

                    Thai

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