How to build your spice tolerance with Thai food

When you enter a Thai restaurant, expect to see smoke coming off the menus. Thailand always offers spicy dishes that can be uncomfortable if you’re a non-spicy eater. But if you can’t take the heat, you’re missing out. A fun way to enjoy Thailand’s love and culture for spice is to build your spice tolerance, and here’s how you do that.

Starting your spice journey

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Begin with mild dishes

To start off, especially if you’re a total beginner, is to order dishes that have mild levels of heat. If you’re feeling some Kuay Teow (thai noodles) with soup, you always have the option to add spice, so give one spoon a shot. These mild spicy dishes allow your tongue and insides to slowly acclimate to the spice’s feel without overwhelming you. And it’s perfectly okay to stick with these dishes, or one spoon of spice, for a while until you get used to the heat. As you find yourself slowly enjoying the taste, you’re on to the next!

Foods you can order to begin your spice tolerance journey:

  • Pad Thai
  • Gaeng Jued
  • Som Tam
  • Kuay Teow sai nam

Gradually increase the heat

Now that you’re used to mild spicy dishes, it’s time to up the ante. Gradually start ordering yourself dishes that have more flavour and spice, maybe add two spoons of spice to your kway teow dish. By slowly adding and controlling the amount of spice you take in, you condition your taste buds to get used to it. Over time, you’ll start to see yourself consuming spicy dishes you never thought you would and experience the love and culture Thailand has for spicy food.

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Tips and tricks to build spice tolerance

1. Incorporate small amounts regularly

How to build your spice tolerance with Thai food | News by Thaiger
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Ever heard of the story about the tortoise and the hare? Spoiler alert, slow and steady wins the race. So in terms of building your spice tolerance, it’s important to remember not to add tons of spice to your dish or order something you know you can’t handle. The jump in spiciness will lead to discomfort and might even discourage your progress. So take it day by day, regularly small amounts of spice to your dish and experience the growth of your spice tolerance.

2. Pair spicy dishes with cooling sides

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Have sides that will help balance out the spice. Not only do these dishes help you soothe your mouth but they also help you take a break between bites. Taking breaks allows you to enjoy the taste of your spicy meal without it becoming too overpowering. Remember that you should also savour and enjoy the taste and spice.

Side dishes:

  • Steamed jasmine rice
  • Cucumber
  • Crispy spring rolls
  • Mango sticky rice (desert)

3. Listen to your body’s signals

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Recognise any signals from your body. If you notice yourself sweating too much, having stomach pain, or feeling any burning sensation, then it’s best to dial back down on the spice. You probably added too much spice or you simply haven’t reached that level of spiciness just yet. That is fine, but remember to respect your body’s limit to avoid complications during your journey of building your spice tolerance.

4. Stay hydrated

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Stay hydrated! It’s crucial to have beverages such as milk or yoghurt that can help cool down your tongue. Bread also helps too! Not only do these offer temporary relief from any burning sensation, but they also help aid in digestion as they coat your stomach lining and neutralise acids. Enjoy the thrill of the culture of spice, however, maintain comfort to have the best experience possible.

Follow these tips to build your spice tolerance to enjoy Thailand’s love and culture for spicy food. The more your spice tolerance builds up, the more you can explore other Thai cuisines that you might miss out on.

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Krystelle Shaye Pesarillo

Shaye, from Mahidol University International College (MUIC), loves storytelling and is an aspiring director and content creator. Beyond that, she enjoys music, sports, fashion, and mental health advocacy. With her passion for narrative and meaningful expression, Shaye aims to make a big impact in media and beyond.

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