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Ouch! or Do inedible peppers belong on your plate?

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Ouch! or Do inedible peppers belong on your plate?

Ruth Lafler | Mar 24, 2009 03:59 PM

I was having lunch today with my sister at a famous Vietnamese fusion restaurant. I put a forkful of catfish claypot in my mouth, vaguely noting that there was something bright orange in it but assuming it was a piece of carrot.

My mouth exploded. I spit it out. Upon examination, based on the size, shape (after being braised and lightly chewed), texture and color, it appeared what had gone into my mouth was a whole (seeds and all) habanero! Ouch. After trying all the available capsicum solvents on the table (wine, rice, duck confit -- which worked suprisingly well) over the course of several minutes I finally got the eye-watering pain down to a reasonable level (although three hours later I can still feel it -- it seems to have gotten into my gums and caused a mild tooth-ache-like headache).

So the questions: Did that pepper belong in that dish in that restaurant?Should this have been removed before serving, or is it okay to leave a habanero pepper in a dish served to an unsuspecting customer?

And does it matter how "unsuspecting" the customer is? I might expect to find an ultra-hot pepper in an "authentic" Thai restaurant, but not in a Vietnamese fusion restaurant with a mostly "gringo/tourist" clientele.

Under what circumstances is it okay to put a pepper that's not meant to be eaten in a dish? Should I have assumed this was a mistake and mentioned it to our server?

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