Thai Spiciness Levels

Thai Spiciness Levels

Asking for 'Not too spicy' and still getting Nuclear level spicy? - Maybe you're saying it wrong.

This issue has come up twice this past week with 2 foreigners learning Thai who finally realised that they were ordering 'spiciness' wrong for many years now - and were finally able to get the level of chilli that they needed.  

Same applies for Sweetness.At MK restaurants, their latest แซบ promotion actually has their own Spiciness ranking built in:

  1. เผ็ดเด็กๆ pʰèt dèk dèk (child spicy or 'mild')
  2. เผ็ดใจกล้า pʰèt cai klâ: (brave spiciness or 'medium')
  3. เผ็ดบ้าพลัง pʰet bâ: pʰalang (Crazy level (power) spiciness or 'Super Hot') - similar to the term for someone gone on a power trip (maybe some politicians)

While these terms are cute - and could probably get you what you need outside of MK with a few chuckles, I have heard several foreigners say:เผ็ดนิดหน่อย pʰèt nít nɔ̀:iThinking that they are ordering 'not too spicy' - and then suprised when they get 'really spicy' served to them.

Some of the confusion might come from the difference between

น้อย nɔ́:i and หน่อย nɔ̀:i.

The first 'น้อย' nɔ́:i with a high tone is 'few' or 'little bit' - so saying:

เผ็ดน้อย pʰèt nɔ́:i

would actually be 'not too spicy' as it is 'reduced level spicy' - but if you say

อยากกินเผ็ดนิดหน่อยนะ yà:k kin pʰèt nít nɔ̀:i ná

would be similar to saying "Ohh - I'd like it a bit spicy please" - here, 'bit' in English means 'little' or 'diminuative' state, but when like this, it actually gives the impression that you would like whatever the modifier is, more than the usual.There are many ways you could say it, but here are some that should ensure that you get the right level of spiciness - and the same can work with sweetness.

  1. ไม่เผ็ดเลย mâi pʰèt lə:i - Not spicy at all
  2. เผ็ดน้อย pʰèt nɔ́:i - Not too spicy
  3. เผ็ดปกติ pʰèt pɔkàtì - Usual spiciness (normal)
  4. เผ็ดมาก pʰèt mâ:k - Very Spicy
  5. เผ็ดโคตรๆ pʰèt kʰô:t kʰô:t - Really frikking spicy (slang)

If you say 'normal', and you don't look Thai - or they see that you're with Thais and Thais are ordering for you, you might want to have the 'Thai' normal and not Farang normal - that would be:เผ็ดแบบคนไทย pʰèt bæ̀:p kʰon tʰai - Thai spicy (as opposed to Farang).


For sweetness, you have the added factor that even if you don't put any sugar in, for milk based drinks, 'not sweet' still means putting condensed milk in.  To say no condensed milk, you can say:ไม่ใส่นมข้น mâi sài nom kʰônOr - ordering coffee / tea etc, you can just say:สั่งชานมไม่หวาน ใส่แต่นมสด cʰa: nom mâi wǎ:n sài tæ̀: nom sòt - Milk Tea, not sweet - only use straight (normal) milk (as opposed to adding Condensed milk).Up country, sometimes carnation milk and condensed milk could also be refered to as นมสด nom sòt - so you might have to tweak it a bit.
I did a post a while back on the different nois - you can see it here



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Written by

Stuart Jay Raj