'hot' and 'spicy'

marinesea

Senior Member
hello, everybody,

i'm a little bit confused about the meaning of the ajective 'spicy'.

Longman dictionary gives the following definition of 'spicy': "food that is spicy has a pleasantly strong taste, and gives you a pleasant burning feeling in your mouth".

Does it follow that 'spicy' and 'hot' can be used interchangeably when referring to a food which contains a lot of chilli? or 'spicy' only refers to a food that contains many spices, and not necessarily chilli?

thank you :)
 
  • daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    They are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. Sometimes if you tell someone that something you ate is hot they may follow up with the question:
    Hot hot or spicy hot?

    Hot should be used to describe something that has been heated to the point that it is hot to the touch.
    Spicy is used when something is hot due to seasoning or spices being added.
    There are items that can be spicy but still be cold due to the addition of peppers.
     
    IMHO, hot will refer to food that has a lot of chili or pepper - that will leave your mouth with a burning feeling. Spicy would refer to food that has lots of seasonings and spices - not just chili or pepper - but also onions and garlics, etc. etc.
     

    Phryne

    Senior Member
    Argieland--Esp/Eng
    meili said:
    IMHO, hot will refer to food that has a lot of chili or pepper - that will leave your mouth with a burning feeling. Spicy would refer to food that has lots of seasonings and spices - not just chili or pepper - but also onions and garlics, etc. etc.
    Can I just add more confusion to the thread?!

    :arrow: "hot" is burning hot, just out of the stove and also, spicy hot, like cooked with a lot of chilly peppers. When I say "this is hot", most people ask me, "burning hot or spicy hot?" :p

    :arrow: "spicy" is jalapeño chilli pepper hot and also as Meili says, with a lot of spices. :cool:

    Confusing, huh?

    saludos :)
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    To make matters more interesting, we have a cake in the US (not sure about the UK) which we call "Spice Cake."

    It is a basic vanilla based cake, but is made with spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, and the like. It is usually frosted with a cream cheese frosting of some kind.

    Ironically, I have never heard it referred to as "spicy," even though it is called "Spice Cake."

    Usually, spicy does connote "spicy hot," as another poster noted.

    For example, when I go into one of my local thai food restaurants, they ask me how "hot" or how "spicy" I want my dish served. I have to rate the "spiciness" on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the hottest, or spiciest. Level 1 is a nice, flavorful heat. Level 3 will clear out your sinuses. Level 10, although popular among natives, will most likely send you to the hospital.

    As our Houston-based daviesri should know, most Mexican restaurants, or Cajun for that matter, serve what they call a "hot sauce." This sauce is a tomato-based sauce that is filled with any imaginable combination of peppers and spices. It is served either room temperature or cold and is used as a condiment for anything from tacos to oysters. In fact, there is a veritable fanaticism associated with hot sauce in the South and western parts of the United States.

    There are countless websites dedicated to hot sauces, which are as amusing as they are informative.

    Hope this helps. :D
     

    Nick

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Phryne said:
    "hot" is burning hot, just out of the stove and also, spicy hot, like cooked with a lot of chilly peppers. When I say "this is hot", most people ask me, "burning hot or spicy hot?"
    This is the root of the problem. Hot can refer to either temperature or flavor.

    A sandwich, for example, could be described as "spicy hot", even though this may seem redundant. If it just said "hot", customers would assume that it would be served warm (as opposed to "cold" sandwiches).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    meili said:
    IMHO, hot will refer to food that has a lot of chili or pepper - that will leave your mouth with a burning feeling. Spicy would refer to food that has lots of seasonings and spices - not just chili or pepper - but also onions and garlics, etc. etc.
    Yep, I go with that.
    Here, we are cute enough to know whether or not food is physically hot, at a temperature significantly above normal.

    So, as meili says, hot = plenty of chilli, usually, or occasionally only pepper.
    Spicy = full of flavours such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger - lots of ginger please.

    I wouldn't call food with lots of garlic and onion hot or spicy? This comes from someone whose all time favourite is knoblauchsuppe (one bulb per person).
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Americans tend to use "spicy" as a synonym for the heat imparted by chili peppers or peppercorns.

    We also use "spicy" instead of "savory," so I suppose garlic and the like would "spice up" a recipe.

    What adds to the confusion is a distinction we draw between spices and herbs, the latter being generally green-leafy and imbued with volatile oils that can be strong or mild-- but never "hot." Spices tend to be seeds, dried buds and bark, or roots.

    Ginger is a spice, but it's also hot-- as are spices like cloves. A typical curry-powder mix of ground cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds is spicy but not hot. But you don't generally batch up a curry without lots of chili peppers, so people who consider curry "spicy" often also equate that spiciness with heat.

    Some chili-pepper sauces, mole poblano for example, are spicy but not hot. Another exception of sorts is horseradish, which is a root like tumeric, but I put it in the foodstuffs class with onions and garlic, loosely called spicy I guess, but to me no more a spice than other radishes, or turnips. But no one would deny that horseradish is hot.

    Bottom line for me, I chafe at the tendency to call hot dishes "spicy," and I see it as a fairly recent phenomenon. But then I was 10 years old when I first set eyes on a TV set.

    Oh, is a vanilla bean a spice? What about cacao and coffee beans? And kola nuts, which bear more than a passing resemblance to nutmegs. Why isn't tobacco leaf considered an herb? We sure used to call cannabis "herb."

    And speaking of grass, what about lemongrass? If that's an herb, why not ramps and leeks, which they resemble? Celery's not an herb or a spice-- but what about celery seed? Finocchio is a celery-like vegetable, but it's so savory it lends as much flavor as the spices fennel and aniseed, and a flavor those spices strongly resemble. But the delicate ferny tops of the vegetable are definetly an herb, a lot like dill weed.

    I sometimes think that the culinary rainbow has as much complexity and subtlety as any language.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    You do often see the phrase "hot and spicy" as a sort of set-phrase, say for the flavour of some crisps (chips) or a pizza or something like that. In this instance I think it is a bit redundant (as opposed to the sandwich example where you are stressing the fact that the food is hot as in spicy rather than as in heat).

    Generally I would view "spicy" as not being as hot as "hot".
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top