How to deal with spicy Indian food?

indian food

I was chopping green chillies to cook some extremely spicy indian food (which Mr. Daaku louvvvs!), and was totally bummed when I put my hand on the face. I sreamed out “aaaaaaaa” and ran towards the washroom to  wash my face and put some ice on it to numb the area. Finally, some sigh of relief. In north india, we must easily use 15 spices to make one dish. I tried this new recipe of egg curry today and I used some 10 spices and a lot of chillies. Result, spicy indian food. The spices look something like this, all of this goes into one dish

indian food
Turmeric, chilly, cardamon, cinnamon, cumin and much more

So, as soon as I took that sigh of relief, I realised this could be a good blog post idea. It struck me that we are pretty accustomed to spices in Indian food but others aren’t. So, here I am to help you with this post on Indian food. So, lets begin

A lot of Indians (not all definitely) love spicy food and their bodies are tuned to it. The ways and means to lower the reactions of spices comes almost naturally to most Indians, especially the ones with grandmas. “Dadi ke nuskhe” (grandmas prescriptions) as we say in India. You have dadi ke nuskhe for almost everything. When I were a kid, my grandma would just give me a glass of milk with lot of turmeric in it in time of bad cold or cough. And, it worked! If I fell down, she would massage me with hot mustard oil with cumin seeds in it. When I was caught with the irritation caused due to spice she would get a cup of curd with sugar. So, you know – there were dadi ke nuskhe right there when I needed them.

My grandma is no more (and I miss her so much!) but I have a lovely mother in law now who knows all these nuskhe’s. Ha! The feeling is like having a grandma all over again. yay!  She is an expert in dealing with spicy indian food mostly because she loves eating spices herself. Everyone in my in-laws family is so tuned to eating spicy food except for me. Even when tears are rolling down my eye and I am making susud susud sounds with my nose while eating pani puris (famous street food here), they are laughing, talking and enjoying the food without a sign of pain.

I know (I really know) it can be difficult to deal with spices in Indian food. Sometimes the spice can burn your tongue and make you sweat. Sometimes you just want to dismantle your tongue from your mouth and place it in the refrigerator. Sometimes you cannot eat anymore because you know your nosy will fall into your food and you run to a tissue box for shelter. Most of the time you want to gulp a glass of ice cold water and wave your hand in front of your mouth. But, you will be surprised to know water does little to ease down the feeling. I know what you are thinking, “then what does?”.

I am going to share some of the tips which helped me deal with spice. So, I hope when you visit India and eat Indian food you can deal with the spice too. After all, if you did not have Indian food in India then you are missing on one the most important and diverse experience this country offers you. Without much delay, let me share the tips.

indian food

secrets of tackling the spice in India food

  1. Order carefully

    If you are looking to taste the flavours of India and aren’t too much into spicy food, then look for single or double chilly signs next to the dish’s name. Do not order them! They are the spices dishes on the menu. However, a lot (and I mean a lot) of hotels and restaurants won’t have such a detailed menu. In such a case, make it clear to the person taking your order to not give you spicy food.

    Ask the waiter for dishes which includes malai or curd in the preparation. Some of them are butter panner, mail paneer or malai kofta. By the way, all these three are my favourites. Guilty! I say this because the best way of having spicy food is to have it with a natural coolant for the body. For example, Thai food is really hot and spicy but they add coconut milk to cool down your body. Similarly, malai, cream or curd is added to the preparation in north Indian food to help cool your body.

    If you are in south india, beware of Andhra food. They make it really spicy so you want to have a talk with the waiter before you actually order something. Otherwise, good luck with your next morning “me” time. Besides Andhra Pradesh, the food of the other south indian states and western states aren’t very spicy and these tips should help you out.

    Honestly, I am no expert on eastern side of India. But, I am planning a trip there so I will update this post once I have had an experience with their food.

  2. Eat slowly

    I know it sounds like an obvious advice but eat slowly. You need to remember that the faster you eat, the faster your body reacts to it. So, more food equals to more heat.

    Moreover, you should try each dish on plate one by one and feel the spice. See what is really spicy and which one isn’t! For example, while the veggies will be spicy, the dal and plain rice would most certainly be not spicy. This will help you know your food better.

    Also, remember water does little to ease out the irritation caused due to spice. So, you want have other items (recommended below) besides you to ease the reaction.

  3. Avoid spicy chutneys and pickles

    I think this goes without saying. When the food itself is so spicy and full of flavours, do you need chutneys (or sauces)? Well, yes – you do. But, not the spicy ones. A lot of restaurants serve you with a sweet (tamarind or tomato) or mint chutney. These chutney’s can help ease the spiciness for you. So, go for it.

    If they do not serve it to you, then ask them (of course, politely!) if they have it. This isn’t considered rude at all. Sometimes you need to ask them for them to serve it to you.

  4. Reach out for dairy products

    Milk, curd, buttermilk, lassi. Remember all these products very well! Mug it up if I must say.

    Dairy products go a long (long!) way in easing the spice reactions in your body. If I find something spicy (and I do a lot of times), I add some sugar (or even salt!) in the curd and eat along with the dish. Curd, buttermilk and lassi are natural coolants and are easily available at any restaurant or even a dhaba. Be on a lookout for them on the menu.

    Eat some rice with plain curd at the end of your meal, if possible. This will help ease your body and cool it down.

    indian food

  5. Sweets

    Who says India is only about spicy food? It has a large variety of sweets. So, order away! Every time you decide to visit an Indian restaurant and eat the spicy food, order a new sweet dish. My favourite are the gulab jamuns, rabdi, moong dal halwa and jalebi.

    If you do not like sweet dish, then order cold fruits. Isn’t that great?

  6. Lemondae or sucking on a lemon

    Personally, this hasn’t ever worked for me but it works wonders on a friend of mine. So, order a lemonade along and see if it works for you.

    And, a good news! Lemons are generally aways served at an Indian restaurant along with the salads. Obviously, to squeeze it over the raw veggies and not to suck. But, eh! Who cares when you are burning from the inside? hah!

  7. Eat something rough

    This method takes sometime to work and you really need to be patient with this. It aims at fooling your brain and tongue by diverting the attention from spice to no spice.

    Bread and rice (or any other starchy food) helps to absorb the spice. So, remembering eat plain rice when you feel the spice.

  8. An ice-cold drink

    I know, I said water hardly helps you in the world of spice but ice numbs the nerves in your mouth and help you tolerate the spice. The immediate burning effect of the spice will be cooled down. Do not gulp down immediately, let the ice cold drink stay in your mouth for 3-4 seconds before you swallow it.

Last but not the least, I am going to share the secret of eating spicy spicy food. Get your eyes closer because no point of asking you to get your ears closer to whisper. The effect of any spice lasts about 5 minutes at max after you stop eating. If you have already eaten too much of it, drink ice cold drink and chill. It will be just alright.

So, tell me your story. Tell me how you dealt with spicy food in India by commenting below.

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8 Comments

  1. I am a green chilli person and really can’t handle the Rajasthani type super spicy (red chilli) dishes.Whenever I get a spice attack I run for cold milk or something with fat in it (chocolate ;buttermilk,butter,dahi). I had read sone where that the fat helps decrease the spicy sensation.
    Great tips.Lovely reading

    1. Fat and dairy products really help. The spice is oil based so curd and milk helps wash it away. Water can’t, unfortunately. 🙂

  2. This post is making me hungry for spicy food and it’s only 8.20am!! Really great tips. I swear by raita when I’ve ordered or cooked a hot Indian meal. My parents are from Mauritius so the main ingredient for most dishes is green chilli! Xx #fortheloveofblog

    1. I am also more of a green chilly person than red and curd is besides me all the time when I sit down to eat spicy food. 🙂

  3. I love love love this post! My other half is a mega fan of Indian food and spices – the hotter the better but although I can eat some spices I do struggle to enjoy anything very hot. I’ve shared this on my FB page as I know loads of people will love this! Thanks for sharing with us on #fortheloveofBLOG x

    1. Thanks a ton! I am glad you liked my posts. Do let me know if you would want me to write on specific topics and I would love to include it in my schedule. 🙂