The Financial Express

Spicy foods and burning tongue: How to soothe?

File photo used for representational purpose. (Collected) File photo used for representational purpose. (Collected)

Spicing things up is a favourite job of Bangladeshi people in both of their daily lives and cuisine. People here seem to be unable to spend a single day without these two things, especially spice in their food. They love it so much that it’s hard to find something exotic and mouth-watering which is not spicy.

This unconditional love for spicy food has even made Bangladeshi people put chilly in a cup of tea naming it as ‘Morich Cha!’

However, even within this ocean of spice lovers, there are a few people who start panicking just by the thought of spicy dishes, let alone taking them. And if, by any chance, either intentionally or unintentionally they consume a tiny bit of spicy food, what happens next has no description.

AnikaTabassum, a 22-year-old girl, belongs to that small group of Homo sapiens who were born in Bangladesh with a taste bud alien to this region. Alien because she can’t handle even a tiny pinch of spice in her food. She is also a person who mixes sugar in her delicious (or you should say horrible) plate of ‘Phuchka!’ What a disaster!

However, every now and then, she can’t control her appetite from taking a bite from her spice-freak friend’s food, and the very next moment she starts acting like a human dragon (use your imagination) that only exhales air.

After her heroic act of consuming spice, wiping off the tears running from her eyes and nose, calming her becomes the top priority of Anika’s friends, of course after a roll of laughter! After all, this is what friends are for, right?

Never try water!

People often make one silly mistake which is, they go for the cold water to ease their spicy struggle. However, it makes the situation even worse. Because, hot peppers have an oil-based substance called capsaicin, and it is what triggers the temperature of the mouth and results in the spicy sensation. Also, it’s a known fact that oil and water aren’t friends. So, a glass of cold water isn’t helpful to reduce the effect.

Eat milk-based food

“Once I ate almost 1kg sweet yogurt in one sitting after having an extra blast Naga burger. Believe me, I could take 1kg more of that sweet and cold yogurt as it was soothing to my tongue; but hey, I really remained upset for a couple of days afterward,” shared Rahadul Islam Sayeem, a freelancer from Narayanganj who is currently taking MBA preparation for Jahangir Nagar University.


Well, milk-based food items work best to be calm after taking a lot of spice. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream, etc., have a protein called caseins that breaks down the capsaicin molecule and provides a soothing feeling. However, one shouldn’t get carried away like Rahadul as overconsumption might have other consequences.

Try rice or bread

Rice or bread isn’t as effective as milk. But it helps to soak the scorching feeling in the mouth by working as a barrier against the capsaicin. Take a grasp of white rice or a piece of bakery bread which will fast soothe your burning tongue.

Sweeten with Sugar or Honey

Sweet is the opposite of spice, and it always works against each other. And it’s also true to mitigate the spicy flavour from the mouth. Sugar or honey is capable of absorbing the capsaicin with the granules they contain. Thus, the spiciness gets minimised.

Well, you might not have honey or sugar available at times, but you can surely buy a Dairy Milk or KitKat from the nearest grocery.

Lemon juice will help too

Many wonder that lemon will trigger the spicy flavour even more which is completely the opposite. Lemon has acidic elements in it and acids are known for neutralising alkaline or capsaicin, which are the culprits behind the spicy sensation.

Spicy foods are hard to resist. But if you have a tolerance level as ‘strong’ as Anika, you should resist, no matter what. Spicy foods are a real delight to have if spiced decently; nevertheless, even if you have a big spicy meal, don’t do it without preparation to calm yourself down.


Fahmina Ahmed is a final year student of marketing department, University of Dhaka.

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