For medical reasons, my friend who adores spicy-hot food, is trying to cut down. What can we do to food to make it taste "less bland"?
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It depends on the medical reason. If it's a sensitive esophagus or stomach caused by GERD, replacing the capsaicin with pungent components, like mustard or black pepper, or strong acidic or base components, like vinegar, wine or citrus, may be out as well. Even alumvarics like onions and garlic may be out. By contrast, ginger can provide intense heat on the tongue, but is also recognized as a remedy for stomach upset. They will need to check with the doctor or nutritionist to see what's OK.
Used well, the boring old residents of the spice rack can provide strong and piquant flavor profiles without the irritation hot peppers in all their incarnations can introduce. Many traditional Continental, African, Near Eastern (Including Greek) and East Asian recipes that don't rely on heat for flavor are "adapted" for a mid-20th century Anglo-American palate - they're blander and less complex than the originals. Seek out traditional recipes and techniques, or 21st century interpretations, rather than rely on outdated Anglicized recipes. Don't be afraid to explore uncommon cuisines as well - Afghan cuisine, for instance, is very mild yet intensely flavorful - a mix of Near Eastern and Indian flavors that doesn't rely on heat.
Here is an article on intensifying and improving the flavors of commonly used spices and herbs. In summation:
Here is an article on common techniques to build strong flavor in dishes without introducing spiciness. In a nutshell -
My boyfriend loves spicy foods and he loves garlic. People who like spicy foods usually like really powerful flavors. So, anything super sour, like lemon or vinegar, or super salty, like soy sauce or...salt... Hope this helps.