Cooking The Books – Emmie Dark

Chef with cookbookWe’re turning up the heat again with multi-published Harlequin and Destiny Romance author, Emmie Dark. As a foodie Emmie leaves no stone unturned in her quest for the newest gastronomic tastes and culinary hotspots of Melbourne. Happily she likes my company as we chomp and sip our way around inner Melbourne talking writing, romance and food.

Emmie’s latest release from Destiny Romance is Spellbound a steamy erotic romance novella. I think the cover says it all!


by Emmie Dark

I’d always thought that I could handle spicy food. Wasabi on my sashimi? Yes, please. A little fresh chilli sprinkled on top of my tom yum soup? Sure! Pizza with hot salami? Bring it on! And I’d always been a little disparaging of those people who couldn’t handle the heat—I was secretly proud to be made of tougher stuff.

That is, until I travelled to Malaysia a few years ago for work. I was running workshops for a group of locals there, and the first thing I learned is that morning tea is not a biscuit and a cup of tea. Nor is lunch a sandwich eaten while you work. In Malaysia—especially in Penang, so famous for its cuisine—food is something to stop for, to savour and appreciate.Spellbound cover

Morning tea on my first day was hot food—a selection of noodles, soup, and some absolutely delicious deep-fried little morsels served with sweet chilli sauce.

One of the delegates asked me, “Do you like spicy food?”

“Sure do!” I confidently replied.

He dished me a small plate of noodles. Bringing a forkful of them to my mouth, I still can’t tell you what made me hesitate. But I paused.

“Just how spicy are they?” I asked, suddenly suspicious. Maybe it was something in the steam rising from them that gave it away—something already tickling my nose.

The woman next to me swallowed her mouthful. “Pretty mild,” she said with a shrug.

“Okay.” I munched on the whole forkful. The flavour was salty, with the freshness of coriander, and a good dose of chilli. Actually, I realised as I chewed, a lot of chilli. LOTS of chilli. A HUGE amount of chilli! With a heat that just seemed to grow and expand to fill my mouth, my throat, my whole head . . .

I coughed. Kind of choked. Managed to swallow. But swallowing the noodles did nothing to calm the raging fire in my mouth. The oil from the dish had coated every tooth, every part of my tongue, and I could hardly breathe.

Tears stung my eyes and I could feel myself break out in a sweat.  “That’s mild?” I managed to say.

They laughed. And brought me water, bless them. And once I’d recovered my voice, we had a lively debate about what “spicy” actually meant. To them, the noodles were mild. For the rest of the week, I was their pet project. “Try this!” they’d encourage. “Tell us if you think it’s spicy!” I was a bit of a joke, actually, with my seeming inability to handle what they considered the mildest of spicy dishes.

Emmie DarkEver since, I’m not quite as boastful about my ability to handle hot food. I still love it, though. And I’m much more patient with those people who don’t like spice at all, even I do think they might be missing out.

Emmie’s first book with Destiny Romance, Spellbound, is out now. A steamy tale about love and magic gone wrong, it’s definitely one for lovers of hot spice!


Find out more about Emmie at

Spellbound is available from:





20 comments on “Cooking The Books – Emmie Dark

  1. Oh, I love this. Your words had me practically feeling the heat in my mouth, and I am one of those who don’t like spicy foods – tasty yes, hot and spicy no! Yay you for having a go at the other foods, though:)

  2. Another really enjoyable post, thanks Louise and Emmie. I laughed at the description of the chilli oil coating every tooth, Emmie, but I felt for you, too. Have been there… In a Japanese restaurant once, the fellow at the table next to us was touting himself as a culinary expert to the girl with him. When the sashimi he ordered arrived, he exclaimed over the lovely big lump of ‘avocado’ on the plate, popped the whole lot into his mouth and turned purple shortly thereafter.

    • Oh no!! I actually ate Japanese last night and had one of those “blow the top of your head off” wasabi moments. There is a trick to getting the exact right amount!

    • That would have been amazing, Christine. I remember going to a Thai restaurant with my brother in the late 1980s. He commented to the waiter that a particular dish wasn’t as hot as he expected. So they brought out something fiendishly hot. I remember Paul’s eyeballs actually turned red (broken capillaries?) but when the waiter politely (haha) asked how the dish was, Paul said ‘fine, but could have been hotter.’ One-upmanship at its most silly.

    • Thanks Cathryn! I really did have a wonderful time in Penang — I just need to go back when I’m not working so I can do some more exploring.

    • Cathryn, they’re the experiences you remember, right? They burn a sensory implant on your memory. There are times when I totally crave hot, hot food but can go a little overboard.

    • Yes, I’ve experienced “mild” Indian food, too, Ebony!! It’s always safer to be in your own environment when these things happen..

    • Hi Ebony. I think a lot of our curry pastes are westernised. I have a Pakistani chutney in the fridge that I made last year and I’m too scared to try. Apparently pakistani parents try to scare their children away from love marriages by telling them they’ll end up living on rice and pickles. I guess the pickles need to be spicy in that case!

  3. Love your chilli story Emmie – I can only imagine how hot it was!!!!

    I’ve just started reading Spellbound – what a fun read. I love stories with witches and hot men 🙂

    **Christine – LOL!!!!

  4. I think spicy has bitten us all at one time or another! What qualifies certainly varies by culture. I had a similar experience with an innocuous-looking carrot salad made by a Sri Lankan friend. It had shredded chilliies lurking in it. No wonder hoeing into it wasn’t cooling down the curry bite! Great to have you among the Destineers, Emmie.

    • Thanks Imelda, it’s great to join the family! I totally understand how you could get tricked by an innocent looking carrot salad — it sounds lethal!

    • Ah yes, the hot element lurking amongst the blandest of vegetables. Emmie and I had lunch a week ago and decided not to try the Spanish chilies with a touch of russian roulette on the side. 9 out of 10 are fine. It’s the random hot one that blows your head off!

  5. I LOVED “Spellbound”. I’d say I was spellbound reading it. Interesting you’re blogging about hot food today. Hot food to celebrate a hot story:) I got caught out at a Thai/Australian BBQ. The Iceberg lettuce was dressed with something that cleared my sinuses better than an ENT could. My then boyfriend gave me milk which worked well to out the fire in my mouth.

    • Thanks Dora! I’m glad to hear Spellbound kept you spellbound! I’ve heard that milk is a good remedy for too-spicy food — quick thinking on behalf of the bf!

    • Hi Dora,
      Thanks for dropping in. I guess that’s why Indians drink lassi? The cooling yoghurt must help as well as line the stomach against the heat.

  6. Thanks for your wonderful blog Louise, love the food, recipes and books some of my favourite things.

    Nothing worse than the runny nose and gasping breath from hot Chilli but I have been told the more you eat the less you feel the heat.

    Speaking of heat, Spellbound is a fantastic story Melissa and so sexy.


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