The Pepper Incident

It is common at restaurants around Chinatown to be served chilli peppers, generally in small slices around 2-3mm thick. They add a welcome bit of spice to the taste of the meal, and if (with my mostly western palette) consumed in small doses, my tastebuds have a good time.

Last night my lovely lovely companion and I dined at Bokchoy Tang at Federation Square. The rugby was on in the big TV outside, and unlike during the Melbourne Cup, this time they had found the big remote to go with it, and had the sound turned on. Live half time entertainment was provided and security was beefed up in preparation for a mob of rugby-loving revellers who never seemed to arrive.

Inside the restaurant the sound was somewhat muffled, and one could just make out a portion of the screen by peering through the gaps in the building framework. The food arrived and I made a start, deep in conversation, and perhaps not giving my meal the full concentration it deserved. Some rice, steamed beef and an ENTIRE CHILLI PEPPER were balanced on my chopsticks, and went into my mouth.

Well. Before you could say "call 000 and get me a fire extinguisher", I felt explosions erupting in my mouth. Searing heat engulfed the lower part of my skull. I must have looked a pathetic blubbering wreck as I tried unsuccessfully to suppress a semi-cough and a gasp, while sweat rapidly developed on my nose and upper lip. I suspect steam may have been coming out of my nostrils, too.

In the following minute or two (it was hard to tell – in some ways it seemed time stood still) my glass of water was emptied, and re-filled again by an attentive waiter, showing how good service can be when such an essential substance is supplied in such a timely manner, no questions asked, and no giggling.

For a while the heat continued to grow, a crescendo of such force that I feared my entire head might get blown off. Eventually it began to fade. I soldiered bravely on through the (quite delicious, I might add) meal, deciding at that point that the remaining chilli peppers would be left to one side. My mouth had had enough excitement for one meal.

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