Zingy Food in Asia – The Spice is Killing Me



When I lived in the States, if you had asked me if I liked spicy food, I’d have thought, Yum, Tex-Mex, and answered, “Of course!”

Now, however, I live in Taiwan, and I’ve been forced to reconsider my love affair with hot sauce.

On a trip to Thailand last year, I met a lovely Taiwanese woman named June while I was sitting outside a food stand having just ordered a pork dish by pointing at a picture on the side of a guy’s cart. June sat down next to me, and soon we were chatting about our travels. She was in Thailand on a group tour; I was there for my Vietnamese Tet vacation. When the food cart man brought over our pork dishes I was surprised to see a number of bright red chilies decorating the meal. June proceeded to reach across the table for a jar of hot sauce, plunking even more spice on the already zingy looking dish. Then she tucked in with her chopsticks. I took a hesitant bite of my meal.

My first thought was, “Tasty!” My second thought was, “Holy Mother of God this is hot!”

June and I continued to eat and chat, June occasionally reaching for more hot sauce, while a steady stream of tears began to pour down my face and presumably steam began blowing out my ears.

“You don’t like spicy food?” June asked.

“Oh,” I said, looking at the dish that was betraying my taste buds and my preconceived notions about my own spicy food tolerance, “I do…”

June laughed at me and told me (while piling on even more hot sauce), “In Taiwan, everyone loves spicy food.”

That was my first encounter with a Taiwanese person and now, living in Taiwan, I can confirm June’s declaration. Taiwanese people love spice. I’ve made it clear to my coworkers that when they’re ordering dishes for the office, that I’d prefer something mild. In the States, I would never have made such a request. “Sure, order me the burrito with the extra hot sauce and jalapenos!” But spicy here? Spicy here can knock your socks off and leave the inside of your nostrils singed for a week.

So what do you think? Am I crazy or is Asian spice hotter than “Mexican food?” (It’s in quotations because I’m referring to the Mexican food available to me in Indiana.)

Let me know which you think is hotter. And what’s your spiciest food experience?


This blog is in response to The Daily Post prompt Zing!



5 Comments Add yours

  1. What I can say is you have a well written post here. I read it with a lot of relish.

  2. noelperies says:

    Hey there nice post. I think it really depends on what part of Asia you are talking about and also within an Asian country things can be very different. Vietnam for example I don’t think has very spicy dishes although some soups can be cut with several red chillies. In Sri Lanka (my roots) food is very spicy wherever you go. India depends on the state you are in. Also let’s not forget the different types of chillies and chilly powder than can be used in dishes, there are hundreds of variations! Spice rules!

    1. shybackpack says:

      That’s true. The different spices have seriously different effects. You’re another spice lover, noelperies. Ah, how I wish I could be like you, hahaha

  3. Adventures in the Burbs says:

    Looks good to me. My son went to China and he’ll hopefully be hitting Vietnam this year. I need to get out there soon. Awesome pics!

    1. shybackpack says:

      Thanks! I’m sure your son will have a blast. Both are really unique cultures.

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