How Hot Do You Want That?

Categories: Eat This

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terrible food picture
I tried to muster my most serious face, looking the waitress at Bangkok City, the Thai place on Bryan Street, straight in the eye.

"Native Thai spicy, please."

I'd ordered the crispy duck, a roasted half bird, fried until crisp and served with chili peppers onions and crunchy fried basil leaves. When my waitress nodded and continued taking the table's order, I felt as though I hadn't been clear. "I mean really spicy," I interrupted. "Pretend I'm not white. I want real, native Thai."

Now I had her attention. She understood. I wasn't just another pasty white person who comes in, demands an inferno and then recoils in horror as a dish ordered hot is actually hot, only to ask the kitchen start over and prepare it again. No, I was in the club. I wanted hot just like I'd get in Thailand.

And that's when I found out about the extra stars.

Bangkok City rates its spiciness with stars -- one star for gringo pussies, four for "Native Thai." But apparently the scale continues invisibly upward.

"Like five," I asked? No, she said. Higher. Seventeen stars were ordered just the other night, she said.

I scoffed. What does that mean? I tried to ask how you even measure out one or five or 17 units of heat. I pictured a star-shaped scoop, dipped into a massive plastic container of finely minced birds eye chilies, one star at a time.

As so many are, the waitress seemed thrown off by my inquisitiveness. She scurried back to the kitchen and returned not with an explanation but with an amendment. It was 20, actually. Twenty stars had been ordered once before.

OK.

"What if you ordered 100 stars?" I asked, picturing a massive pile of stir-fried capsicum crowned with a single slice of crispy duckling. My waitress looked at me like I'd been snorting lines of the stuff off the back of a roast duck. I was losing my street cred. I was also losing my nerve. What if I ordered 20 stars and then had to send the dish back?

I wouldn't send it back, though. No, I'd suffer through the agonizing burn and go home wounded and broken. I wanted to enjoy my meal. I chickened out. I ordered four stars, Native Thai.

The duck was thinly sliced, crisp and seasoned with a thick and sweet sauce. The onions were cooling and crunchy and the fried basil leaves crowned the dish like crinkling green cellophane. It was warm, but not killer; I wished I'd ordered it a little hotter. But how hot should I go? How many stars?

I like when a dish is spiced just outside of my comfort level. I like that cool, sweaty sensation I get around my eyelids and a nice little sheen on my forehead. I like to burn, but not for days, and I still like to taste my food. Four stars was for sissies. Next time I'll do 4.0125 and really blow it out.

And there will be a next time. That duck was really good.

Location Info

Bangkok City

4301 Bryan St., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant


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10 comments
Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

I kind of like Royal Thai better, even though it is more Americanized

James Scott
James Scott

Come 'on, Scott. You can do 5 easy! I used to get the same stares when I ordered "Thai Spicy," but most of the waiters know I'm not joking anymore. I thank my Thai hair stylist that taught me the "code" of ordering food that is actually spicy.

Whitney Filloon
Whitney Filloon

I'm always torn between the desire for that mouth-searing, sinus-clearing heat and also wanting to be able to taste all the nuances of flavor in my food (esp. with something complex like the amazing yellow curry at Bangkok City).  Someone needs to go balls to the wall with 20 stars and write about it, though...

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

So because my system goes into overload above typical white person levels I'm a pussy?

Did Whitt write that under a pseudonym? Maybe your taste buds are just pussies and need enough heat to melt the fork to wake their lazy asses up.

I'm pretty sure spice-tolerance is far more of a science thing than a psychological thing

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

Their bathrooms are comforting, too. Ya know, for when you're in there screaming from the butt.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

I like spicy, but 17 stars? That sounds like some sort of Thai street gang initiation.

Guest
Guest

You may have brought that up in jest but in actuality, their bathrooms are some of the cleanest in Dallas!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Ice cream alice, it really helps cool the burn on the way out

Guest
Guest

I had the same duck dish there yesterday with just their regular 1 star heat level. It was hot enough. My only complaint is that the heat they put in their food does not burn your mouth as much as it burns your lungs.

Snack Perkins
Snack Perkins

Does a Native Thai order come with a complimentary roll of TP?

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