Fast food chain uses the magic word of potential spiciness.

It’s been said before but bears repeating that Japan tends to err on the side of caution when it comes to spicy food. That’s not to say their spicy dishes aren’t delicious, but those drawn in by food labeled as “insanely spicy” will undoubtedly be let down by their lack of a kick.

Even with products that claim to contain famously hot ingredients like ghost peppers often end up using small amounts blended in with other things so as to reduce their impact considerably. However, in my culinary searches around Japan, I’ve found that there is one word that when used by food producers often results in a genuinely spicy dish, and that word is “ethnic.”

Cup Noodle’s “ethnic” Tom Yum version is a good example. The sauce comes in a separate pack and if you let it sit on the top rather than mix it in, it’ll light you up quite nicely


Even though the word “ethnic” isn’t used much anymore by English speakers to refer to other countries’ foods, the English word is still used fairly often in Japan where the standards of cultural sensitivity are different. We may see it become passé in Japanese as well before too long for much of the same reason, but for now it exists and can be used when selecting food.

For example, since Japanese cuisine tends to not like getting carried away with spiciness in such a way that even its take on curry comes across more like a sweet Demi-Glace sauce. But when a curry is described as “ethnic,” it suggests that it was not tailored to Japanese taste, and thus has its authentic level of spiciness… hopefully.

Of course, the word “ethnic” is just a word and not a legally-binding guarantee of spiciness, but it’s definitely a promising sign and worth looking into. And with that, fast-food chain DomDom has announced the release of two new burgers: the Stinging Mexican Chili Burger and the Enchanting Thai-Style Massaman Curry Burger.

Right off the bat, spicy fans will probably go for the Stinging Mexican Chili Burger, but let’s look a little more closely and the descriptions.

Stinging Mexican Chili Burger
A chicken burger accented with the sting and texture of fried chili peppers and a spicy sauce based on Mexican salsa.

Hmm, alright. Those large chopped chunks of pepper do look like they might bring the party, but I’ve been burned by such imagery before, and not in the good way.

Let’s see what’s behind door number two.

Enchanting Thai-Style Massaman Curry Burger
An ethnic-made chicken burger with slow-boiled potatoes and beans in coconut milk and spices.

Huh, the Thai one ended up using the E-bomb in the description. This is uncharted territory for this theory, so I’m not sure if the “ethnic” word has associative properties and would apply to the Mexican sandwich as well. It could also mean that even though massaman curry isn’t especially spicy, this “ethnic” massaman curry might end up being spicier than the “stinging” one?!

▼ They do use “ethnic” to describe both sandwiches in their tweet, however, further muddling the issue.

It’s all intriguingly unpredictable. Still, even if neither of them end up being the spiciest things in the world, they still look pretty darn tasty and much more reliably so than DomDom’s weird camembert-bun burger a couple years back. So check them out while they’re here for a limited time.

Source, images: DomDom
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