When spicy becomes too spicy

When spicy becomes too spicy
Yeong Hee (left) and Chye Yong preparing Ah Leng Char Koay Teow using their father’s recipe.

PETALING JAYA - If you can't take the heat, don't blame the hawker.

Kedai Kopi Bee Hwa owner Angie Ng, who serves a variety of fried rice and hawker food, said cili padi is a must in nasi goreng kampung.

"I always warn customers that the dish contains cili padi because I don't want to be accused of setting anyone's tongue on fire," said the Penang hawker.

She was commenting on a report that a Singaporean lodged with the police Wednesday over a plate of spicy nasi goreng kampung he ate at a Johor Baru restaurant.

The former lorry driver complained that his tongue felt like it was "bitten by red ants" after he ate a few spoonfuls of the fried rice and returned to Johor Baru to lodge a report "in case there is a need for a check-up later".

While chilli is an essential ingredient in many Malaysian dishes, most hawkers make it a point to ask their customers if they would like more chilli in their food or otherwise.

Ah Leng Char Koay Teow proprietor Teoh Koon Leng, 73, said a plate of his famous flat noodles came with a standard dose of chilli "unless you are a foreigner".

"We put less than a spoonful of chilli paste for each plate. Locals will tell us if they want it spicier or not.

"But with foreigners, we will ask if they want chilli or not because they may not be used to spicy food," said Teoh, who runs his stalls in Air Itam and Dato Keramat, George Town with his children Yeong Hee, 47, and Chye Yong, 37.

Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar managing director Buruhan Mohamed, who runs a chain of outlets in the Klang Valley and Penang, said that many foreigners nowadays had a higher tolerance for spicy food.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj agreed, saying that consumers should be rational as certain dishes were known to be spicy.

Selvaraj added that it was difficult to say if a dish was "too spicy" or otherwise because the answer depended on the individual.

"It's a matter of taste and preference," he said

Foodie W.M. Yew, 32, said that consumers could not expect hawkers to be asking them how spicy they wanted their food to be.

"This is not like fine dining, where the waiter asks how you like your steak prepared," she pointed out.

"For a RM4.50 (S$1.74) plate of noodles, you have to tell the hawker exactly what you want. If he botches the order, just send it back," she said.

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