Spice is not like other taste sensations, like bitter, sour, salt, and sweet. When a food registers as spicy with your tongue, it is probably because it contains a substance known as capsaicin. This substance, found in all spicy peppers, triggers the thousands of VR1 pain receptors in your tongue.
The capsaicin binds to the receptors and sends a signal to your brain, identical to the signal you get when your skin is burned by a hot surface. No actual damage is being done to your tongue, but this is a sensation that many people can’t handle in strong doses.
So, what can you do to reduce the burn when your Indian cuisine proves to be too much for you to handle?
The first instinct of most people is to reach for a glass of water. Unfortunately, since capsaicin is an oil, it can’t be washed away so easily. In fact, you’re probably just spreading the oil around to more thoroughly coat your tongue and make the sensation worse.
The best thing you can do to dilute the pain of spicy food is introduce another oily substance to your mouth. The oils are able to mix with the capsaicin and keep it from adhering to your pain receptors. Fatty foods are good for this purpose. A tall glass of milk can be a good option, as it quells the fire in your mouth with its fat and quells the fire in your stomach with its calcium.
At Spice Route in Bellevue, we offer milk and a selection of yoghurt-based lassis for this purpose. Come and join us for some quality Indian fare today!