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The Big Chill - Putting Out the Fire

Too HotSome like it hot, but even the most ardent appreciator of hot sauce and chile peppers will need to tone it down. (Ever had your tongue pierced? You'll find the after-care directions include an admonishment against hot food while you let the piercing heal.)

If you are ever in need of toning down the heat, here are some ways to cool things down:

1) Keep on chowing down the hot stuff. You can build up your tolerance to capsaicin just by eating more and more spicy dishes (see Why Some Like It Hotter Than Others).

2) Quaff beer. Some experts, especially beer lovers, swear by the cooling properties of beer, which they say actually works better against the capsaicin than water (see Fire and Spice). That's because capsaicin is an oil so either alcohol or fat (see below about drinking milk) can cut through it, whereas water won't kill the burn.

3) Drink milk or slurp up some yogurt. Milk and other dairy products cut the heat because of their fat. Indians often make yogurt-based sauces called raitas which you can apply to a curry to tone it down.

4) Serve a starchy side dish such as fried plantains, bananas, rice, beans or bread. They will soak up the spice and bring you some relief.

5) Just a spoonful of sugar or a sugary condiment like a sweet mango chutney will lessen the heat.
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