Thai food sparks terror alert in London

Dan says: "London attacked by burning, spicy food -- locals unable to 'Keep Calm and Carry On.' It all spells t-e-r-r-o-r a-l-e-r-t! (NOTE: the BBC provides the recipe in a sidebar in case you need to have "specialist crews" break down your door.)"
A pot of burning chilli sparked fears of a biological terror attack in central London. Firefighters wearing protective breathing apparatus were called to D'Arblay Street, Soho, after reports of noxious smoke filling the air. Police closed off three roads and evacuated homes following the alert. Specialist crews broke down the door to the Thai Cottage restaurant at 1900 BST on Monday where they discovered the source - a 9lb pot of chillies. The restaurant had been preparing Nam Prik Pao, a red-hot Thai dip which uses extra-hot chillies which are deliberately burnt.


  1. The chief difference between London and Boston appears to be that the London authorities aren’t calling it a hoax and filing criminal charges.

  2. Ouch!

    I once made the mistake of sauteing some Habanero peppers in an improperly vented apartment kitchen. The effect on the sinuses, lungs, eyes and other delicate tissues of the ensuing fumes was identical to the effects of sulphuric acid vapor. I know this because I once had a ’74 Toyota FJ-40 with a transplanted Chevy V8 and an unsecured standard “flooded” (liquid electrolyte) lead-acid type starting battery. While horsing around with it on some rough terrain, the battery proceeded to leap off of the battery tray and commit suicide on the exposed exhaust manifold. The plastic casing melted, the sulphuric acid electrolyte (battery acid in water) poured out onto the hot manifold and flashed into hot mist/steam/vapor, which then billowed out of the hood vents and into the passenger compartment (no doors or top on this truck). Very nasty!

    Definitely need to have a properly vented kitchen when working with hot peppers – exhaust the fumes outside the building!

    In this case, while “terror attack” may sound extreme, I imagine if the fumes were bad enough that several people called the authorities, it must have been plenty strong. No way in heck would I go into that Thai kitchen without breathing apparatus! I like the quote from the restaurant supervisor though: “Because we’re Thai, we’re used to the smell of chillies.” Having the recipe next to the story was a nice touch, too.

    Chalk it up to another learning exercise for the authorities – “Note: if a call comes in about a chemical attack, ask what it smells like. If it smells like acid/burning/mace/pepper spray or similar, check for restaurants nearby that use hot chillies and call them/go there first.”

    It certainly isn’t nice to breathe if you’re not used to it…


  3. @ cajunfj40

    Yeah by vaporizing the peppers you were basically making pepper spray. I a skillet. In front of your face.

    I don’t have an exhaust hood in my kitchen and I love spicy foods. Thai, Indian, Southwestern, and of course Cajun. Most recipes, I can add the spices at a point in the process that they don’t vaporize and cause, uh, pain but occasionally I get begged for some blackened fish and we open all the doors and windows and tough it out.

    The things you do for food.

  4. This is almost as bad as when they called in the bomb squad for the guacamole someone left on the CTA in Chicago a few years ago.

    I say keep up the good work guys, the more incidents like this that happen the more people will realize that terrorism isn’t the “OMG WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!!1!1” that some people make it out for. Not there it some danger, but driving on the Interstate is probably a bigger threat.

  5. Shouldn’t it read…

    Specialist crews broke down the door… where they discovered the sauce.


  6. I was working on D’arblay street in Soho at the time and it was the shop owner below me who called the police. I remember smelling something unusual but thought nothing of it as I regularly get unusual smells wafting in the window as there is numerous restaurants in the street and the whores who work below me have all sorts of smells eminating from thier floor (there is nothing like the smell of jizz n jiff in the morning!).
    I’d just come out of the outside toilet out the back (old buildings these!), and Tony who looks after DnC clothing below me was muttering about strange smells and coughing, i went back upstairs and carried on working, about half an hour later 5 fire trucks, 2 incident units with cameras and a scientific unit truck rolled up sirens blaring, I ignored them until i heard shouting from the street below. I went down stairs and a fire chief was in the street calmly telling people to evacuate. I went back upstairs and got my stuff and switched off everything, as i passed the whores on the way down one stuck her head out of a door and asked what was going on, I told her. I got out onto the street and everywhere was taped off, i found me colleagues at the end of the street and stood with them having a ciggarette, we watched the hot models evacuate the modelling place until we decided to go to the pub.
    All this time there was no panic, with the emergency services doing thier jobs quietly without fuss. Some people were affected by the fumes, just coughing and nasal irritation. A few shopkeepers where getting irate about not be able to lock up their shops but that was the only trouble. Eventually the pub was evacuated, with the policeman getting booed! My boss told me to go home and the next morning the Thai restaurant across the street had a smashed in door. If it had been a proper terrorist attack we’d have stood no chance, we didn’t panic enough!

  7. I only thought that it was after you eat the Thai food you were considered a terrorist…

    At least that’s what my family calls me, when I’m around them.

  8. The biggest Thai-language paper in Bangkok, Thairath, put the story on the front page today. True to form, their accounts were a tad exagerated, especially compared to the first-hand account by the commenter above.

    Anyway, I posted Nam Prik Pao recipe on my blog today, in case anyone wants to do their own – chilli paste, I meant, not sparking a terror alert.

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