Serious Eats: Talk
Why do people like spicy/hot/piquant food?
Sorry might seem like a bit of a rant but I've never really understood why some people 'need' spiciness/heat in all their food. (Not like dishes that actually call for it - but the people who slather hot sauce on everything from a breakfast platter to oysters to a fine steak)
I understand that it works in small doses to accentuate specific dishes- think a small dab of wasabi on sushi - but from a biological/chemical point of view it's not even a flavour - it doesn't activate any flavour or taste buds - it's purely a sense of pain, similar biologically from how you'd experience an open wound.
I've found with foods that in larger amounts spiciness just acts to mask the actual flavours of food. I.e. if you douse hot sauce in an oyster, you're not even tasting the shellfish anymore (there was a show on food network on the spiciest oyster combos)
And I've always thought of excess amounts of black pepper to be just a tool for masking old/past sell by date beef.
And for most dishes, maybe all dishes - omitting the chili peppers doesn't make any difference to the actual taste of the food. With good, fresh ingredients, the delicate tastes of the food themselves are brilliant on their own, and a dousing of peppers just blunts/masks it.
So yea are there any chili/spice heads here? You know the ones who go for the 'spiciest ramen bowl challenge' or who carry a bottle of hot sauce with them everywhere, why exactly is it needed? And doesn't it actually crowd out the other actual tastes in the food? And is the taste of a toro sashimi really not enjoyable without a 50% wasabi ratio?