We just moved from Tuen Mun to Sai Kung. We've got a bigger place, a rooftop garden, a decent kitchen and a proper guest room, and I've got a one and a half hour commute. This means that I'm rarely home to cook dinner.
Luckily, when we moved in we noticed an Indian place less than a block away. We love Indian, as does anyone in their right mind, so we tried it out that night. The menu told us we could specify mild, medium, or spicy. We of course chose spicy. When our food came, however, there was barely any heat to be detected.
Now, I can forgive our waiter for this. I understand that spicy is a relative term. For example, to someone from Hunan province "spicy" is a mouthful of raw chilies. To a Cantonese person, "spicy" is a sprinkling of table salt. So when he asked us how the food was I was kind, but I told him that it wasn't spicy at all. He apologized and brought us a bowl of chili sauce that was only slightly spicier. He saw us ladling it on, smiled and said, "Okay, I understand." And then I made my fatal mistake. I said (and these words have come back to haunt me), "Yes! We like Indian spicy!"
So the next time we went, he smiled with recognition and said "Indian spicy!" Yes! We nodded and smiled and happily munched papadums while we waited for our baingan bharta and bhindi masala.
We were still innocents then.
The food came and it smelled amazing. It also sort of burned my eyes. Under our waiter's proud and benevolent gaze, we took our first big bites. Chew chew che- ohmygod mouth on fire lips on fire face on fire everything on fire
But we locked eyes across the table and knew what we had to do. We choked it down, smiled with watering eyes, and gave our waiter the thumbs-up. "Per -cough- perfect." He looked so happy. "Good! You like spicy!" As he wandered off to take care of other customers we desperately gulped water. Though I have to say we wouldn't have done so if I didn't happen to have an extra bottle of water in my purse to fill up our water glasses before our waiter returned. No one must know that this food hurt us.
Since then, we visit the restaurant about once a week. It's close, it's cheap, and, well, we can't lose face. We've had long discussions about whether we can downgrade to "medium" but just can't take the shame. So we order our food with lots of naan and rice and raita, and these days we usually get it for take away so we can cough and gulp water away from our waiter's judging eyes.