I remember when my friends asked me how I handle spicy foods. My answer is simple; I ate these foods from a young age.
However, just like others, I used to struggle to tackle chicken wings with fiery sauces and other painfully spicy dishes. I always have a glass of milk by my side. As time went by, my spice tolerance increased. So now, I have the best of my life enjoying the spicy foods I want, from salsas to meat.
Feasting on spicy dishes can make you feel uncomfortable if not carelessly done. The best thing you can do is to start slowly, fill your stomach beforehand, increase the spice level slowly, etc.
What are the Easy Ways to Prepare for Spicy Food?
For non-spicy food lovers, seeing people who enjoy fiery dishes seems strange or makes them wonder, “how did they do that?”
Don’t worry; I will tell you some secrets to enjoying spicy foods without too many struggles or crying. Here are some tips on how to prepare for spicy food:
Tip #1: Start Small
While it is tempting to jump to lots of chilis or ghost peppers and pretend your tongue is not hurting, the best way to prepare for spicy food is by starting small.
For example, you can start with dousing your favorite pizza with Tabasco sauce or sprinkling a dash of red pepper flavors to your mac and cheese. You will enjoy the dish and get your tongue used to the spiciness.
I used to inject spicy mustard into my sandwiches for mild spice. Gumbo, mild curry, and jerk chicken are great dishes to try when expanding your spice tolerance. I also tried Indian or Mexican candies. As with the hot sauces, I searched for those with “mild” Scoville units on the label. I started with 450 SHU.
Tip #2: Have a Full Stomach
Remember that eating spicy foods with an empty stomach or making spicy meals the day’s first meal is never a good idea. When I am about to torch my palate, I ensure that my stomach is not empty. Since your taste buds and stomach are just starting, ingesting spicy food can cause heartburn or upset your tummy due to acidity.
No matter how much I love spicy foods, I must be careful with my stomach. I usually have a light meal: a banana or mac and cheese and some toast. Sometimes, I get some milk or grab a sandwich. A little preparation will help.
Tip #3: Eat Something Spicy Weekly
At first, you will not enjoy eating spicy foods. However, if you eat them more often, you will start appreciating and loving them.
Exposing yourself to different spices help get your tongue used to the sensation. Not only that, every dish’s flavor will become more dynamic. The mildly spicy dishes taste like nothing if you keep eating something spicy at least once a week.
Once you start enjoying the heat, you will likely seek out spicier foods in the next few months. That is because your body builds a tolerance to capsaicin, a chemical responsible for the heat in spicy foods.
Tip #4: Savor the Flavor
People who did not use to spicy foods find saving the flavors hard. One of the best ways to prepare spicy food is by focusing on aromas and tastes that can make you keep eating.
Did you know that using too much spice in their food is the number one mistake people usually make? When used sparingly, fresh spices add great flavors. I suggest adding one spice at a time to know whether or not you enjoy the flavors. If yes, feel free to muddle a meal with different spices and flavors.
Tip #5: Increase the Spice Level, Slowly
I started with milder spices like cubanelles or poblanos. After that, I moved on to serranos and jalapenos. I searched for something spicier when my taste buds got accustomed to milder spices. So, I add chopped, seeded chilis to my meals.
When building tolerance to spice, do not be afraid to go slightly too spicy sometimes – your preparation needs to be gradual. You do not need to cover all your meals with hot sauce. However, if you want to increase your tolerance, you can have an occasional meal that can give you a burning mouth.
Tip #6: Drink Milk
Milk comes with protein and fat, which help neutralize the spice in the food. Before eating something spicy, have a tall glass of milk.
Take a sip of your milk every few bites. This helps reduce the amount of heat. I suggest whole or skim milk as they effectively tame the heat. You can also have a spoonful of sour cream, especially when eating spicy tacos.
No milk? Not a problem! You can go for acidic drinks or ice water. Ditch a regular glass of water, as it only worsens the burning sensation.
How? Add some ice to numb your mouth if you want to drink water. The water will spread the capsaicin in the mouth. To soothe the pain, you can also sip acidic, like grape juice, lemonade, or orange juice.
Tip #7: Have Something Starchy
Besides being a soluble chemical, capsaicin comes with a long hydrocarbon tail. In other words, this chemical binds strongly with lipoprotein receptors in the fatty foods’ cell walls, like ice cream or milk. However, you can try some cooling methods.
When my friend eats seriously spicy foods, he always has something starchy. I also tried it, and it is effective. I had white rice, pasta, potatoes, or bread. These starchy foods help absorb the spicy oils, so your tongue would not suffer. No wonder white rice is always available with Asian foods, like curries.
Tip #8: Keep Something Spicy on the Side
Whenever I host a small family gathering at home, I invite my friends for a sleepover or a simple pool barbecue party; I enjoy cooking for the guests. However, I need to balance the foods – some dishes for spicy fans and some dishes for those who are not.
What I did is that I serve spicy salsas or sauces on the side. So, people can add to their likings. I also tried this idea when I was increasing my spice tolerance. For example, when eating nuggets or French fries, I have two dippings – regular ketchup and a spicy tomato sauce (I add some red chili flakes).
At first, I appreciated the ketchup more. However, the more I dip my snacks in spicy ones, the more I enjoy spicy food.
Tip #9: Do Not Force Yourself
It is never an idea to force yourself to eat spicy foods. You cannot succeed in one sitting. Not everyone can easily handle spicy foods, especially if you grew up not exposed to them. I believe it takes a lot of patience.
So, it takes time. Do it slowly until you notice that your spice tolerance has increased. Above all, enjoy the food and have fun.