March 13, 2005 3:01 AM

Cuisine mirrors savory Thai culture

"You can eat spicy, sir?" Every time I order in a restaurant in this noisy, steamy, teeming, traffic-clogged, friendly and fascinating city, they ask me that. With the sweetest of smiles. But I'm worried. What are they preparing me for? Warning me against? Is there some hidden national conspiracy to fry the foreigner's palate, then protest that they tried to warn me?

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