July 27, 2009
I was traveling around the world last year and found myself in Bangkok, Thailand in the Fall. I went into a Vietnamese restaurant there, thinking that I would enjoy the experience. I pointed to a nice looking dish, and a few minutes later was presented with an appetizer that I initially thought was a flower pot for decoration. It was actually a salad made with entire leaves and stems, and a dressing pooled at the bottom rich with cilantro.
I knew after the first taste what it was. My first time tasting cilantro was at my university the year before. The "chef" at the cafeteria had loaded a taco with cilantro powder, and left me gagging for a few minutes after eating a clump of it. Now, I have the ability to voluntarily shut off my sense of taste and smell (for most foods), and tried to do this while eating the salad. It worked for a few minutes until the main meal came. Now, this dish was also loaded with cilantro and my ability was no match for the potent herb from hell. After a few bites, I couldn't stand it. My sense of taste came back in full, and I became nauseous.
One of the waitresses saw that I wasn't eating my food, and looked a little distressed. She didn't speak English, but I can only assume that she told her friends something along the lines of "this weak foreigner can't handle our hot food", because no more than a minute later I saw, like out of a cartoon three heads stacked on top of one another peeking at me around the corner, the waitresses giggling uncontrollably. There was a little heat to the food, but I've had much hotter before. It was just the cilantro that got me. My waitress handed the check to me while laughing, and I went across the street for a Whopper.