Foodie In Training

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Struggles of a White Man

Last night Erin and I had dinner at Bangkok Bistro in Hyde Park. It is a very good and always busy Thai restaurant that isn't too expensive. I am actually impressed at Cincinnati's offerings for Asian food. There are a bunch of Indian options across the city, my favorite is Ambar India in Clifton, but Erin isn't big into curry. We also have our local Chinese places: Doodles and China Gourmet. Both are a step up from a fast food place you get your Moo Goo Gai Pan that sits in a shopping center or in the food court at the mall. But those places all deserve their own posts.

My complaint is the spiciness scale. After you order your Pad Thai, Chicken Jalfrezi or General Tso's chicken, the Asian person taking your order will ask "How spicy?" They will give you a scale: 1-5, 1-10, or like the shady, yet delicious Krishna Indian restaurant across from my school, maybe the scale is 1-6. Now, I'll eat the spiciest thing you can find, and I'll love it. but, for a whole meal there is a line, I want it to be outrageously spicy, but not so much that I can't enjoy the flavors. So, my initial response is usually to go one step below the highest: 9 of 10, or 4 of 5.

Now, I'm going for that comfortable eating sweat that should accompany eating hot wings or Asian food. Yet, I'm often disappointed at the mildness of my meals from these places. So, I've been erring on the side of my tongue bursting into flames recently. Last night I ordered a 10 on a scale of one to 10 (Erin ordered a 1 for her seafood stirfry). Once again, I was disappointed. Yet, I know that these Asian cooks have the ability to bring me the spiciness I crave, so what's the deal?

My only rational conclusion: I'm being discriminated against because of my race. My friend Craig, a lover of all things spicy and Indian food particularly, is a firm believer in this theory. And I now join him. I think the people taking my order see me and think "sure, this white guy thinks he wants a 10, but he can't really handle it, we'll go easy on him." It might be even more explicit, when they go to the kitchen, it wouldn't surprise me if they say, "one chicken Pad Thai, spiciness 10, its for a white guy though."

The solution? I'm not sure. I think I'm going to stop recognizing the number system. Instead, when they ask how spicy, I'll answer "as spicy as you can make it". Or, I'll just say, "pretend you are cooking it for your father, make it that spicy". Or, I just need to make some Asian friends that I can take to dinner so I can gain legitimacy at my favorite Indian, Chinese and Thai restaurants.


Mandy said...

Ryan, try ordering a 10 and asking for a side of spicy chili oil. That way you can kick it up when they underestimate you! Erin, love the red shoes!

Maria said...

Hey! I always read Cristin's Eat like me blog and saw your post saying that you had one too. I took a look at it with no idea that you would be from cincy! I'm from there too and I'm so glad that you talk about the restaurants you go to and things because I am always looking for new places. Great job on the blog and good luck with it!

Amanda said...

It is so interesting to read this because my husband (another white man who loves spicy foods... and grew up in Cincinnati) has the SAME problem. I'm with Erin and order a spice level of 1, while he orders a 10- but it's NEVER spicy enough.

I think your theory is right though...

(btw- it's Amanda Gerold, from SMCC... I got to your blog from Angie)