Why Revolutionaries Love Spicy Food
April 18, 2016 1:40 PM   Subscribe

The shrewd peasant organizer had a mean, even “spiteful” streak. “For example, for a long time I could not accustom myself to the strongly spiced food, such as hot fried peppers, which is traditional to southern China, especially in Hunan, Mao’s birthplace.” The Soviet agent’s tender taste buds invited Mao’s mockery. “The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper,” declared Mao. “And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight.’ ” How the chili pepper got to China by Andrew Leonard
posted by chavenet (8 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Great article.

Of all the cuisines of the world I've tried, Hunanese is far and away the spiciest. Pre-schoolers in Hunan would laugh at an Indians idea of spicy.

It's unique in the world of hot food too, it's spice dies in your mouth almost as quickly as it attacks. And it is the only spicy cuisine I've tried where "super insane spicy" imntegrates with the other flavours. Both northern Indian and Thai tend to get so spicy that all other subtlies are obliterated, not so with Hunan food.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:10 PM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Terrific piece, thanks very much for posting it.
posted by smoke at 11:17 PM on April 18, 2016

I lived in Wuhan, in Hubei, for just under a year. I arrived utterly unable to eat spicy food. Nacho cheese sauce was usually too spicy for me (yes, the yellow waxy stuff at 7-11). While its not impossible to find non-spicy food in Wuhan, it is much, much more trouble than it's worth. It took a little while, but I acclimated. Evidently the stereotype (in China) of people from Wuhan is that they travel with hot sauce, or always demand extra hot sauce for whatever they order, and for the small sample size I witnessed, there's some truth to it. Me very trip I took with friends from Wuhan involved meals with repeated requests for more hot sauce, emptied bottles, and spoons ringing against the sides of jars trying to get the last bits of chili paste out and on to the food.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:25 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know how Hunanese food being the hottest, although I remember broth from a frog hotpot I had in Changsha actually blistering my lip when I clumsily let a leg splash back into my bowl. So many great dishes there. I sure could have done without the statues of Mao though.
posted by hawthorne at 2:44 AM on April 19, 2016

"Proving" your manhood by how much capsaicin (and/or allyl isothiocyanate, gingerol, or piperine) your system can tolerate is way more harmless than measuring your dick with alcohol or misogyny, but it still seems really silly and stupid.
posted by straight at 9:20 AM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Of all the cuisines of the world I've tried, Hunanese is far and away the spiciest.

How does Korean food compare?
posted by dialMforMara at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2016

Ghidorah – I have good friends from Wuhan and the stereotype holds true ;) One of my favorite dishes taught by a friend is potatoes sautéed in hot sauce and garlic. Slice potatoes very thin, sautée some garlic in cooking oil (whichever you prefer), add a tablespoon or two of chili sauce or diced chilis, sautée potatoes. Eat.
posted by fraula at 3:42 AM on April 23, 2016

Oh and the quantity of garlic is at least 4 cloves. You should have as many cloves as potatoes.
posted by fraula at 3:43 AM on April 23, 2016

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