Imagine the scenario where you’re enjoying a delicious plate of Thai basil chicken or drinking a bowl of flavourful tom yum soup. You take your first bite/sip and suddenly feel a tingling on your tongue. As the soup washes down your throat, you feel a stinging pain.
That, my friend, is known as chilli burn. Another scenario is you feel the stinging pain on your fingers after handling chilli peppers.
Why is chilli hot?
Chillies add spice and flavor to our food and lives. However, chilli burn is something to watch out for when having any type of cuisine with spices. Chilli peppers release capsaicin which has oil-like composition and produces a sensation of burning.
Water doesn't lessen chilli burn
Water seems a good choice to expel the heat when experiencing chilli burn in the mouth or on the fingertips. However, it may actually intensifies the pain and worsens the condition.
Solutions to overcome chilli burn (especially if you want to venture into spices)
Dairy products neutralizes the heat
Obviously, the best option is milk. If you'd watched those spice eating challenges, you would noticed that there is a glass of milk nearby. Milk actually relieves the burn faster than anything else. Being slightly acidic, it helps to break down oils making it definitely useful to tone down the spiciness. However, if milk is not available, listed below are some other options that help too.
Literally any other dairy products may be used. Ice cream, cheese, yogurt or sour cream. Yogurt is proven to be the most effective in coating the tongue like a fire blanket, thus relieving the pain caused by the chilli burn.
Drink acidic liquids
As mentioned above, anything acidic can help break down oils. Squeeze some lime or lemon onto the hands to help get rid of the pain. They may not be as delicious if drank, though.
Sweets to reduce the heat
A teaspoon of sugar can easily ease the pain. Allow it to sit in the mouth for a moment before either swallowing or spitting it . Otherwise, a spoonful of honey is a good alternative.
Good ol' rice
A few spoonfuls of rice actually help neutralize the heat caused by capsaicin. That’s the reason dishes are paired with rice. Other starchy foods like bread, potatoes and tortillas help as well. Dipping hands into raw rice also helps to reduce the burn on the fingertips.
Stay away from chilli peppers to avoid the spiciness
Be like me. Although I am fine with spice, I just despise the burning sensation in the mouth and the swelling of the lips caused by chilli burn. In Singapore, we have the McSpicy burger and I can’t even handle that. For Sichuan mala dishes, I generally just order that with no spice or avoid that altogether.
No access to any of the above
If you are really out of options and water is the only choice, try gargling a few times with warm water. There is another alternative such as drinking alcohol but this might not be a good solution for everyone. That being said, Vaseline is also a good option to tone down the burn on the hands.
Hope these tips help in your spice-eating adventure!