Welcome to the third installment of C+M’s ongoing series of audio guides on how to order authentically spicy food in ethnic restaurants.
As a service to C+M readers I’m compiling a series of audio guides demonstrating phrases in several relevant languages, which can be used to navigate ordering situations fraught with tricky cultural and language barriers.
If (like me) you’ve ever tried to order a spicy dish in a restaurant and been refused (or served a clearly less spicy version), this series of audio features is for you.
Sajan Saini grew up in a North Indian family in Canada, where meals at home were always cooked with ample red and green peppers (aka, chilies—called mirch in Hindi and Urdu). “The majority of Indian cuisine does pack a fair amount of heat,” he says. “And most of the heat in [North] Indian cooking is coming from green peppers.” (Full disclosure: Saini is my husband.)
Today Saini teaches us to say, “I’d like to order my food with lots of spicy green peppers.” Use it to order spicy dishes in North Indian and Pakistani restaurants, where the staff speak Hindi or Urdu. (Note: The two languages, when spoken, are very similar—but Hindi and Urdu are written using different scripts.)
Saini loves spicy food and often adds fresh green peppers to cooked dishes (like chana masala, shown above). But he is careful to eat them in moderation. “These chilies are very potent,” he says. “You have to really respect the green chili.”