have you notice that i am a fan of spicy food? i may not have made that abundantly clear. i am a serious fan of spicy food. love it.
rarely are foods spicy to me that bother other people. at indian restaurants, the pickled/spicy peppers that is both extremely citrus-y and hot, isn't that spicy to me. wasabi doesn't bother me much these days. jalepeno is more nutty than spicy. crushed red pepper paste in asian restaurants is downright sweet. tabasco is laughable. whenever i go to a thai or vietnamese or chinese or mexican or any other place where they say they have a scale, 1-5, 1-10, i say 5 or 10 or 6 or 11.
most of the time, when i like the food somewhere and i go back, i have to tell them to make it more spicy. i tell them to not focus on my whiteness and treat me like they would family. that normally does the trick. sometimes it takes some convincing. capsicum doesn't bother me much, lots of black pepper does (but i just find that lazy). ok, is the stage set?
it's not often that i'm surprised. and i was surprised twice, in eastern washington. it's not exactly the middle of nowhere. the tricities are the third major population center in washington state, but they're not even as densely populated as a new york city or boston commuter suburb, let alone big city.
my first surprise came from phuket thai cuisine in kennewick. they have a sign, "we take our spicy level seriously." ok. sure. i got the go ahead from my wife to order one dish at 5 stars (their top). it was the beef and basil stir fry. the waitress, a teenage girl, says " are you sure?" "yes i'm sure, thanks for the warning" i reply. she responds, "the cook/owner hates it when dishes go back because they're too spicy. she won't accept them." i considered myself duly warned. my wife ordered a pad thai.
when the 5 star dish landed at the table, visually you could see the red pepper paste on the top. mashed, thai peppers and oil. you also smelled it. after one bite, my tongue was on fire. fire. it took quite a bit of rice to calm down the ol' taste buds. i could have honestly ordered it at 4 stars and been very happy. 5 was too much. it was more like the kind of thing you eat on a dare. that said, it did have a nice flavor. the spice wasn't lazy, it was layered. my wife's pad thai (a 2 i think), was a nice break - but she wolfed it all down. i suffered in silence...
in the end we had a nice black rice pudding, which was very tasty and a nice way to conclude the meal. by that point my mouth had recovered. the food was shockingly good. good in general, very good for kennewick.
if that was not enough, then there was woo's teriyaki in richland.
they have korean (bibimbap and bulgogi), and japanese (yakisoba and teriyaki). i ordered the chicken yakisoba, hot. "how hot? we do low, medium, and high heat." i replied "high." the pile of noodles, with brownish-red sauce, and teriyaki chicken hits the table. it didn't look quite as foreboding as phuket, but phuk it was hot! i'm talking burn my face off hot. worse than phuket. i turned to the businessman i was trying to woo and said "this is hot." he smiled and said "well, i'd heard a story about a guy being surprised by the spice, but i was waiting to see your reaction to figure out of it was true."
stinker! not a month or two earlier, we'd had another meal together at a local mexican place. it was pretty good, and i ordered their camarones a la diabla. i also had their "hot" salsa. i didn't break a sweat, it was nothing. i commented that the flavor was there, but it lacked a little in the spice department. well, not woo's. it was there on taste, even better than phuket, and it was there in spice. i had to order a tapioca ball smoothie and steal some of my compadre's rice to beat the heat. he was a good sport. i finished most of the plate, but the food did burn going down. did i mention my mouth was on fire?
after i finish the dish, manlily, the waitress says, "how was it." "hot" we reply. she smiles. "how do you normally get it?" asks my new friend. "very very hot, it's two levels above yours. if i don't eat in a few days though, i can't even stand the normal hot. you just have to get used to it." get used to it! my mouth recuperated about 20 minutes after lunch. i can only imagine very very spicy.
phuket thai cuisine restaurant ste d, 1407 north young st kennewick, wa 3.5 of 5 (4 for tricities) (yes, if you saw the earlier thai ginger post, this place is better than thai ginger.)
1379 george washington wy richland, wa 4 of 5 (5 for tricities)