Not that I blame local restauranteurs for being careful with white people. I’m sure they’ve been well trained to classify customers by nationality/skin color by wimps who like their bland beef and broccoli coated with a shiny glaze of corn syrup. And at least we are able to get consistent spicy goodness from the Sichuan restaurant. (My husband is fluent in Mandarin; I’m not sure how important this was in our ability to develop a relationship in which we can consistently expect to receive exactly the food that we ordered. Anyway, I don’t think that our hope of achieving greater gustatory satisfaction is sufficient motive for him to also learn Korean and Thai.)
So I’m looking for practical advice here. I want food that makes me cry; how can I get it? When I put in my order I always emphasize that I want, for example “real, spicy Thai food that a real Thai person would eat,” but that isn’t good enough — even when I’ve been instructed during previous visits that those were exactly the magic words to use. Then typically I’m sending my dishes back to have more chilli or peppers added, and often the result is something that instead has three times the amount of salt that it should (perhaps because they are just adding more “white people sauce”)? Meanwhile, I stare with longing at the intensely red bowl of tofu chigae that a young Korean-American woman is enjoying at the next table.
If anyone has come upon the secret to culinary communication and satisfaction, I would be most grateful to hear your secrets — thanks!