Why 'White' Is the Least-Spicy Option at This Korean Restaurant

If there’s one pervasive stereotype surrounding the way white people eat—besides maybe their affinity for putting avocado on literally everything—it’s that they can’t handle spicy food.

by Nick Rose
Jan 17 2017, 10:00pm

If there's one pervasive stereotype surrounding the way white people eat—besides maybe their affinity for putting avocado on literally everything—it's that they can't handle spicy food.

We're not going to jump into the minefield of ethnography here or determine whether this is empirically the case for an entire group of people (especially one as broadly defined as "white people"); certain members of our staff's liberal usage of hot sauce would suggest otherwise. But we will certainly report any funny stories caused by apparent misunderstandings that reinforce said stereotype.

There was, for instance, the time a presumably white British man named Stuart Lynn ordered "very mild" venison curry from an Indian restaurant. When he received his takeaway dish, Lynn claimed that he was appalled to see the words "***VERY MILD, WHITE PPL***" written on the bill.

READ MORE: This White Guy Says He Was Discriminated Against for Ordering Mild Curry

The owner of the restaurant in question blamed the apparently racist message on linguistic confusion about the word "ppl", which she said is synonymous with milk—one of the ingredients used in the curry sauce. And while this begs the question of what other color milk could possibly be, lulz ensued because the implications, intentional or not, were funny.

In a very similar vein, Reddit recently lit up with a post titled "The non-spicy option at my local Korean place," which showed a restaurant's spice spectrum ranging from "Extra spicy" (two red peppers) to "White" (white/empty pepper).

The post garnered more than 8,000 upvotes, 200 comments, and international attention because of the obvious implication that, once again, white people can't handle the hot stuff. Surprisingly, the comments section did not generate into a racist Internet hate machine thread, and instead tried to explain the linguistic root of the misunderstanding.

Apparently, the Korean word for "pure" is very similar to "white," meaning that, in all likelihood, the grading scale here is referring to a dish without any spice on it.

white-ppl-korean-spice copy

The menu appears to be from Toronto Koreatown restaurant Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, and it's not the first time that this heat scale made its way onto Reddit. MUNCHIES reached out to the restaurant, but a member of staff said that they could not provide comment on the matter.

Back in 2014, another post entitled "Spicy Food Level: White" with a picture of the same menu received 2,440 upvotes, though that time around, the comments section was more fixated on hacky racist jokes and stereotypes than any kind of linguistic elucidation.

How times have changed. And yet, for whatever reason, the image of white people wiping sweat off of their brow and breathing heavily while they eat an "authentic" spicy dish seems to ring eternal.