Eating hot food to cool down? It seems paradoxical, almost absurd. Isn’t that like eating more to lose weight (a la the “six-meals-a-day-diet”)? This may just be another old wives tale, but on the other hand, a correlation has long been noted between the generous use of chili and spices in cooking and hot climates. Think Africa, India, Mexico, Thailand, the Caribbean. In the absence of refrigeration, spices were traditionally used to ward off bacteria. Food with lots of garlic, onions, allspice and oregano are the best all-around bacteria-killing spices. Thyme, capsicum, tarragon, cumin and other hot peppers also do a suitable job at protecting food from infection. Spices are also said to contain traces of antioxidants that reverse the damage wrought by our hectic city lifestyles. And besides, grandmothers the world over have long pushed the “eat-to-sweat” hypothesis. Head to these restaurants, which are offering some of the best flaming feasts in town. Jashan 1/F, Amber Lodge, 23 Hollywood Rd., Central, 3105-5311. Open: All week long, from noon-2pm and 6pm-11pm. Cuisine: Indian The juju: The knowledgeable Chef Saravanan tells me that spices are used for medicinal reasons in a lot of Indian cooking, which is in line with the practice of Ayurvedic healing. The various herbs and spices that may be used for the purpose of warding off the heat in the summer are ajwain and carom seed. Fortunately, this uncommon herb is used in many of the dishes at Jashan such as the paneer tikka; the mackerel in carom seed marinade; and in most of their bhajis and pakoras. The herbs black cumin – bittersweet and used in many of their desserts; and aniseed are known to Chef Saravanan to be both flavorful and cooling. Make sure to order anything that has yogurt in it, like the raita which is made from cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Yogurt is also used as a dressing in many of their fresh and crispy salads. Cooling drinks include the mango lassi and the nimboo pani, which, as it’s made from soda, black rock salt, black pepper and mango powder, packs a mighty kick. However, as a piece of advice Chef Saravanan warns me to stay away from red meats like lamb, which can heat up your metabolism. Lumiere and Yun Yan Restaurants Lumiere: 3101 – 3107, Podium Level 3, IFC Mall, Central, 2393-3933 Yun Yan: 4/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132-134 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2375-0800. Open: All week long at Lumiere, from noon–2: 30pm and 6pm – 9pm. Bar opens from 5:30pm–midnight (Sun and Thu) and 5: 30pm–2:00am (Fri, Sat, and public holidays). All week long at Yun Yan, from 11:30- 2:45pm and 5:30pm – 11:30pm (10:45 last orders). Cuisine: Lumiere blends Sichuanese and South American tastes. Yun Yan is Sichuanese. The juju: Chef Chan from Lumiere tells me that chilis provide Vitamin C, carotene (the substance that gives carrots their bright orange colour and a good source of Vitamin A) and also helps to burn fat. To cool the body down during the hot summer, Chef Chan also suggests eating sweet or sour fruits like pears. At both Lumiere and Yun Yat restaurants, there is a great and refreshing drink called “Zi Bel Tian Kwai Juice.” The drink is made from zi bel, a Chinese herb that is grown in Tai O and used in many drinks. Hardcore chili fans may want to drop into Yunyan and Lumiere for the authentic Sichuanese spicy chili broth series, which is available at Lumiere in six meat flavors. Either that or the sautéed crispy chicken with wild chilies and dried conpoy; or the sauteed spicy prawns with white chilies will get your fires burning. If that’s just too much for you, opt for milder fare, like the steamed mandarin fish fillet at Yunyan, or the chilled king prawn and lychee marinade or Bunuelos de Cangrejo, the pan-seared fresh crab cakes at Lumiere. But if these dishes get too hot to handle, chef Shiu from Yunyan suggests some tomato juice to quench those flames. ¡Caramba! and Coyote’s Bar And Grill 20 Elgin Street, SoHo, 2530 9963 (¡Caramba!) and 2861 2221 (Coyote’s) Open: Mon to Fri from noon– 11:45pm (last call); Sun from 11:00am-10:45pm (last call) Cuisine: Mexican The juju: Chefs at Caramba and Coyote’s tell me that any raw foods or foods eaten cold will cool down your digestive system. Foods which take the shortest time to grow are the most cooling - for example, lettuce, cucumber, celery and tomato. Funnily enough, they also told me that foods which are blue, green or purple are more cooling than their red or orange counterparts. For example, a green apple or pepper is more cooling than a red apple or pepper. They also suggest ordering anything with mint, cilantro, or ginger, because these three herbs are renowned throughout South America for their cooling properties. For summer fare, try the ensalada de tortilla, ensalada de gambas or chilled gazpacho soup. There are plenty of non-spicy dishes at Caramba and Coyote’s as well, but you can spice things up by adding any one of their 100 different hot sauces. The “Firehouse Chili” at Coyote’s is the hottest dish they stock – but I’m told that it’s not really that hot. Instead, you might want to take a pick up “The Bomb” – one drop is more than enough to send a shock through your system. At the other end, Gringo Loco – a homemade sauce is a mild blend of orange, tomatoes, jalapenos, chilli, garlic and other spices. If the heat gets too much, the chef suggests holding milk or white sugar in the mouth until the burning stops... Fire and Ice Don’t have you convinced? For those who are still a bit dubious about the sweating-to-cool theory, XTC on Ice serves up double, triple and even quadruple scoops of Hot Chocolate – made from Thai chilis and chocolate gelato. The result is atomic! They also use spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and ginger to add a buzz to their cardamom-ginger and ginger-cinnamon-honey-lemongrass flavors. Also, try the lemon pepper flavor, which infuses lemon gelato with crushed black peppers and lemon zest. Now that’s hot! Scoville Scale The Scoville Scale is the measure of the hotness of a chili pepper. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin, a chemical compound that stimulates thermoreceptor nerve endings in the tongue. Wilbur Scoville developed the test in 1912. A solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the “heat” becomes undetectable to a panel of tasters. A sweet pepper, which contains no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero. At the other end of the scale, the most explosive and tongue-numbing chilis, such as habañeros, have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000 times over before the “heat” is undetectable!