If there's one thing you can expect from Chinese food—specifically Szechuan dishes—in San Francisco, they're most likely going to be spicy—and restaurants like Chili House SF pride themselves in preparing and serving hot meals fresh off the wok and into your plate. So if you want to challenge your friends to a day eating nothing but spicy yet tasty food, look no further than popular Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. If you want to ensure a win by boosting your spicy food tolerance, here are some tricks you can try:
Bring along some rough food like crackers, or better yet, order steamed rice and munch on them as you savor the overwhelming spiciness of your chosen dish. Rough foods tend to distract your tongue's taste receptors from focusing on the spicy flavor by giving them another texture to worry about, and if you eat starchy food, it might even absorb some of the capsaicin—the active component of chili peppers.
Swish, Don't Drink
If you need to have a glass of water with you, make sure it's lukewarm, so you could keep it in your mouth for longer without hurting your teeth. This is because you should swish the water around your mouth and tongue and spit it out instead of taking gulps and swallowing. This way, you are rinsing off the spicy capsaicin and getting it out of your mouth.
Serious Eats contributor Andrea Lynn advises that you should start small, whether it's by taking in little amounts of food at a time, or by digging in on the less spicy food first, then build up to the hotter ones:
When your taste buds get accustomed to these small measures of spice, bring it up a notch. Try adding seeded, chopped chiles to your meals. Start with milder ones like poblanos and cubanelles before moving onto jalapenos and serranos. A friend of mine who worked up his spicy tolerance advised this: "It needs to be somewhat gradual, but don't be afraid to go a little too spicy sometimes. You don't have to douse every meal with hot sauce, but if you want to stretch your tolerance, then you need to have an occasional meal that leaves you with a burning mouth. It's like exercising a muscle—no pain, no gain."
If you're looking for excellent San Francisco Chinese restaurants to hold your spicy challenge in, pick ones that have a variety of spicy dishes to choose from. Don't get too caught up, though—remember that your body can only tolerate so much spicy food before you get too much stimulant. Also, try not to be overly competitive that you forget to enjoy.
(Source: 6 Ways to Build Your Spicy Food Tolerance, Serious Eats)