What liquid offers the fastest and most effective relief from scorching-hot food? In a bid to find out, I'll be sticking an entire chilli into my mouth each day this week, followed by a popular cooling remedy such as milk and hot water. (We're also taking suggestions!)
Chilli picture from Shutterstock
We've all been in the situation before: you gingerly try a mouthful of spicy food at an exotic restaurant or bohemian dinner party, only to realise — too late! — that it's way too fiery for your palate. The next ten minutes are usually spent in an embarrassing blur of coughing, sweating and spluttering into your napkin. Even chilli aficionados have been known to bite off more than they can chew, as our "Ultra Death" Chilli Sauce taste-test video will attest.
According to scientific research, the sensation caused by certain hot peppers is similar to being rudely groped at the equivalent of 50 taps to the skin every second. So how do you stop this spice-assault once it's started?
Most people realise that water is a poor salve for chilli burn — in fact, it can spread the oils around in your mouth which makes things even more unpleasant. Likewise, the bubbles in carbonated soft drinks and beers have been known to exacerbate the problem. If you enjoy spicy food but would prefer to keep the inferno down to a pleasant smolder, you're going to need a less conventional beverage.
For the rest of the week, I'll be testing the cooling ability of various foods and liquids after eating a bird's eye chilli (aka Thai chilli). Bird's eye chillies were chosen due to their above-average heat level (up to 100,000 Scoville units) and predominance in Asian cooking. There are certainly hotter chillies available, but this is at the upper end of the scale for most cuisines and restaurants.
We've tried to stick to feasible options that are readily available in most homes and restaurants, which excludes Slurpees and sorbets. We're also avoiding ingredients that would deter from the actual meal, so proven remedies like ice cream, chocolate and spoons of vegetable oil are out.
Our short-list currently comprises of cow's milk (a well known salve that counteracts pepper oil via casein protein), coconut milk (a folk remedy), white wine (alcohol is a known solvent to capsaicin), hot water (a dubious remedy spotted online), lemon juice (citric acid counteracts capsaicin) and sugar water (ditto). I'll also be trying a few solid remedies, including bread, carrot and cucumber. Naturally, we'll be recording the whole thing on Vine so you can point and laugh at my discomfort.
Our Chilli Challenge kicks off at noon tomorrow with milk and bread. Let the self-inflicted torture in the name of science/reader amusement begin!
Do you know of any additional heat remedies not mentioned in the list above? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll add them to the experiment.