Thai Food Vegetables: Chili Peppers!
Thai food: Chilis!
These are green and red chili peppers that we use in our Thai food dishes on this web site. It is very difficult to tell which chilis are going to be medium spicy and which chilis are going to be “hurting your ears” spicy. There are different levels of spicy in Thailand.
Level 1 – “Mai Phet” (pronounced “my pet”)
You can feel it on your tongue after you are well into your meal – maybe in 15-20 minutes. This is VERY unspicy and something that you don’t see much of here. Most Thais’ like it more spicy than this.
Level 2 – “Phet Nid Noi” (pet nid noy)
Spicy little bit. This is a couple chilis in your dish (1-3). Mild chilis at that. Most foreigners can handle this and think it’s getting spicy. Your mouth may start to burn a bit during the meal but you probably won’t need to STOP eating – you can eat the whole meal – may already be very spicy for some foreigners (expats).
Level 3 – “Phet Poddee” (pet poddee)
Spicy just right. This varies for even Thais – but for my husband and I we are at this level at between 5 and 8 chilis in each of our meals. If the meal is wet – like Som Tam or Yum Woonsen then the spice hits a little harder. At some point we might have to slow down a little bit and take a drink of water to continue eating. This is still a comfortable level of spice – the mouth may burn – a lot… the lips will tingle. We may feel hot all over… we may sweat a little – if it’s hot out and humid… we will cry be wiping our noses (nobody blows in Thailand).
Level 4 – “Phet” (pet)
Spicy. This is where one might sweat… cry, and run their nose into their food… This is where the body is hot… and one might start to feel it in the ears too. Yes, your ears will feel like your ears are blocked or there is air coming out of them. My husband doesn’t know this feeling yet – he hasn’t had it yet. I usually get it at the next level…
Level 5 “Phet Phet! or Phet Maak!” (pet pet or pet maak)
Burning holes in your throat, tongue, stomach and ears spicy. This is what happens if you’re eating level 4 and you eat too much… it is also a level of it’s own – like in Isaan – the northeast of Thailand where nearly every meal might be like this if you don’t tell the waitress “phet poddee ka”. At this level you WILL need to stop eating your Thai food often and take drinks of water and eat cucumber slices to keep your sanity.
Some Thai people love this level all the time – for my husband and myself it’s rare – maybe once per month!
Hope that helps you gauge the level of Thai food spiciness you’re eating…