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I will be in India (Hyderabad) for about a month. I like spicy food, but it is a treat, not normal event. Last time I went to (North of) India, after a week, I had too much of the spices and my mouth was - somewhat - burning. I don't eat Indian food normally, so it is probably due to my inexperience with dishes.

Given the longer period this time, I would like to know if there is any advice on how to balance dishes to minimize the spice burn-out over time. Are there specific dishes to look-out for that counter-act other spicy dishes. It is a work trip rather than a stay with a local family, so I can order anything, but the eating advice would be hard to come by. And I can't eat just naan bread for weeks.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Well, if you're going to be in Hyderabad you should definitely not miss out on Hyderabadi biriyanis and kathi rolls, which are the specialities of the region. The spiciness for these and other dishes can vary and different people have different tolerance levels. (I don't know how much you can handle; I can NOT handle spicy food AT ALL.) If you want to use traditional ways to counteract it, order one of these drinks (these are the Hindi names, but should still be well-understood):

  • Lemonade, otherwise called nimboo paani
  • Lassi: Lassi is a drink of watered down yoghurt, and it's not as disgusting as it sounds. You have sweet and salted varieties. Any milk-based drink is good for counteracting spiciness. You could also order almond milk if the restaurant serves it, as that's another sweet milk-based product.

Another option to order dessert with your main course. For a lot of Indian meals, people often order dishes to be delivered together rather than as separate courses. So if you order any sweets or desserts with your main course, when your mouth starts burning you can dig into a tiny bite of your sweets / dessert and continue eating your main course.

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The yoghurt thing really works.. –  MeNoTalk Aug 16 '12 at 1:19
    
Sorry, but I have to say that their yoghurt is really bad. About the lemonade, some locals told me that for children they counteract the spice by squeezing lemons on the food. –  hooray Aug 16 '12 at 14:07
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The substances that cause the burning are called capsaicin, and they are not water-soluble, but fat-soluble, which explains why everything that contains fat (such as yoghurt, milk ot desserts) helps. Sweets that only contain sugar will not help. –  Michael Borgwardt Aug 16 '12 at 15:23
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If you are ordering in a restaurant, you can ask the server to suggest dishes that are less spicy (dishes with malai and such). Also you can request them to tone down the spices of the dishes you are ordering (this works sometimes). You can also order for dahi (curd) separately.

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Well, I am back from Hyderabad and the strategy above (asking for less spicy) very much did not work. I think the baseline spice level (at least in Hyderabad) is so high that what they see as not spicy is still quite spicy for for westerners. But Lassi, raita (yougurt) and beer did help. –  Alexandre Rafalovitch Oct 29 '12 at 17:40
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