A Big Scoop Of Red Stuff

May 19, 2009

in Food & Drink Stories

A few years ago, I took a friend to a well-known Hunan-style Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant is very small, with only a dozen or so tables and a counter where you can also eat. Behind the counter is the “kitchen” where the cooks wok up the orders. Hunan food is very hot and spicy, but the problem with this particular restaurant, I’d explained to my friend, was that the cooks could see you. If you were not of Asian ancestry, they would figure that you couldn’t take the heat, and would make it mild. I’d told my friend that in order to get the food as hot as it was supposed to be, you really had to insist that you liked it that way.

So we sat at the counter and ordered. I told the waiter that we truly did enjoy it hot and spicy, so go ahead and make it that way. When the first dish arrived I tasted it, and it was far too mild. So I called the waiter back over and told him that this dish was not spicy enough and to please make the rest of them much more spicy. He walked a few feet down the counter to where he was opposite the cook, a grandmotherly looking woman who was cooking our next dish in a big wok. He said something to her in Chinese, which caused her to put down the spoon she was cooking with. She looked down the bar at us, regarding us for a moment, and then got this faintly evil smile. She then reached underneath the stove and pulled out a big jar of red “stuff.” She scooped out a big scoop of this red stuff, and flung it into the wok, all the while looking at us with this evil smile.

Now, I really do like hot and spicy food – much more so than the average person. But when this food arrived, it was absolutely inedible. Within a couple of bites, my entire mouth, throat and the rest of my upper digestive tract was on fire! My friend and I each drank a six pack of beer choking down that food, while the waiter and the cook laughed at us. But there was no way, having insisted, that we were going to wuss out – so we ate the whole thing.

We then thanked the cook for making it “just the way we like it,” and she just laughed. Needless to say, we paid for it the next day too.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nacho May 20, 2009 at 5:39 am

That's what you get. My boyfriend is the same way about Thai food, and has had it that hot before. I, on the other hand, prefer to be able to taste my food.

What a nasty, arrogant cook, though. If I were you, I probably would have walked out.


Jess May 20, 2009 at 9:41 am

That’s not a dinner from hell. But, it is a funny story! I have seen this happen to some of my friends, who then try to smile and the sweat drips off their noses in the restaurant. When we go into an Asian restaurant where my version of “spicy” and Joe Schmoe’s version may differ, I always ask for extra hot pepper/sauce on the side so I can season to my liking.


Owen April 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Good one….I bet this is Brandy Ho's. LOL…

reminds me of the (I think) MadTV skit about the hot wings place, where the guy had to INSIST that he wanted the "super fire hot" and when he finally got them, flames shot out of his ears and nose, and his hair caught fire.


Aaron March 11, 2017 at 9:53 pm

Not Brandy Ho's. It's not that small and there is no counter. When you order the smoked duck hot at Brandy Ho's it is indeed hot but still delicious. The place the OP is referring to is down the street and is a hole in the wall. You have to know about it to tbink of going in.


zander June 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Ugh, I deal with this all the time as a white guy who loves to frequent small, family-owned thai and indian places. I'm not bitching about being the victim of discrimination, but I'd just like to enjoy a 5 (out of 5 on the spicyness scale) yellow curry without having to insist over snide questions of "are you suuuure..?" and then have to deal with the lava-soaked entree served by some butthurt cook who's "gonna show this white boy" (a quip I've heard sniggered before).

My world would be much more tastily convenient if some supranational organization could develop a master spicy scale for restaurants worldwide, and everyone would know their desired level.


Shamu September 12, 2011 at 4:30 am

When I was younger I was eating Doritos with my mum. She put out some Salsa. Thinking it was mild I scraped a big glob on my chip. BIG MISTAKE it was HOT I drank three glasses of water. Next time I will LOOK before I SCRAPE.


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