Next time you’re looking for spicy Thai food, you may just want to follow the fumes. After residents of London’s Soho neighborhood complained of an acrid “chemical” haze on Monday, the local fire department sent in its Hazardous Area Response Team Unit. Police closed off roads and evacuated homes while firefighters wearing protective breathing equipment went in search of the source. A few hours later, the Hazardous Area Response Team Unit (isn’t “Team Unit” redundant?) emerged from the kitchen of the Thai Cottage restaurant carrying a nine-pound pot of bird’s eye chiles, which were being dry-roasted in preparation for nam prik pao. The chef explained:

I was making a spicy dip with extra-hot chillies [sic] that are deliberately burnt. To us it smells like burnt chilli [sic] and it is slightly unusual. I can understand why people who weren’t Thai would not know what it was. But it doesn’t smell like chemicals. I’m a bit confused.

Want to tempt fate (and the authorities) yourself? Chez Pim blogger Pim offers up a recipe for homemade nam prik pao.

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