If you're eating out at an Indian restaurant, then you might be looking forward to a spicy experience. However, you may underestimate the heat of a dish you've ordered, or you can accidentally eat some of somebody else's food that is too spicy for your taste buds. Or, you could simply come across a chilli that is just too hot to handle. All these scenarios have the same results: if the chilli is too hot, you'll have a red-hot mouth and will feel very uncomfortable.
While your first reaction may be to douse the heat with copious glasses of water, this is just a short-term fix. The water will give you some temporary relief, but it won't cool your mouth down permanently. The stuff in chillies that gives them heat is called capsaicin — this substance isn't neutralised by water. Luckily, it is neutralised by other stuff. What's the best way to turn down the heat in your mouth?
Capsaicin does calm down if you expose it to certain fats. So, if your mouth is burning, dairy products can be a quick fix. Your waiter should be your go-to guy at this stage so ask for something to relieve the heat. Indian restaurants will be well used to people who have heat problems — servers might bring a glass of milk or a bowl of yoghurt along with your main dish because both of these dairy options can immediately soothe your mouth and reduce the effects of the chilli.
If the restaurant serves lassis, ask for one. These are yoghurt-based drinks that have sweet stuff added to them, like mango and vanilla. Adding sugar to the dairy mix may help reduce your discomfort more quickly.
If you have a beer on the table, then drinking this may help you cope, especially if you have to wait for a dairy fix. While beer contains a lot of water, its alcohol content makes it better at dealing with chili heat than plain water. Adding an acid to the beer, like lime or lemon, will also help.
Don't let one bad experience with a rogue chilli put you off eating at an Indian restaurant. Next time you go for an Indian, talk to the waiter about dishes with heat levels that might suit you better. If you really fancy something but worry that it is going to be too hot, then ask the restaurant to add less spices. The kitchen should be able to give you the great-tasting dish you crave without more heat than you can handle.