Tomorrow, we'll fix boo jah

The afternoon of Oct. 1 was cool and rainy in London. Except, that is, for a street in the Soho district. There, it became so hot that people were gasping for air, and firefighters using special breathing apparatus went door to door to check on the well-being of residents. And all because of Chalemchai Tangjariyapoon. He's the chef at the Thai Cottage restaurant and he happened to be whipping up a batch of nam prik pao dipping sauce. If you didn't know, nam prik pao goes particularly well with prawn crackers. But to make it, several pounds of dried chilis, some of the most potent on earth, must be burned first, which releases a smoky, chemical odor. (It was "very sharp and hot," a competing restaurateur in the neighborhood recalled to The Times. "It got in the back of your throat.") Finally, at about 7:30 a HAZMAT (hazardous materials) unit from the fire department battered down the door of the Thai Cottage, headed for the kitchen, and carried off Chalemchai's cooking pot. Oh, the HAZMAT people were "very nice about it," one employee said, but the experience left Chalemchai nonplussed. "I can understand why people who aren't Thai would not know what it was," he said. "But it doesn't smell like chemicals." As for the rest of the staff, they're thinking of putting up posters around the neighborhood next time "to say we are cooking the dip."

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