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When I'm buying food in China, especially in the street but sometimes also in restaurants, people often ask me if it want "là".

I know that means "spicy" and I really enjoy spicy food. As there's not really a word for "yes" in Chinese I often answer "我爱辣" (Wǒ ài là).

Everybody understands me but I'm not sure if it's pidgin Chinese or actually a perfectly valid expression.

For instance I've learned that "辣" means spicy, but maybe it also means "spiciness". Anyway I do know that equivalent Chinese and English sentences are usually not word-for-word literal translations/

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I would understand it as "I love spiciness" 我喜欢我的食物辣would be I like my food spicy but it sounds more natural as 我喜欢辣的食物 I like spicy food (at least to me) as for not having a direct translation of yes, use 要 in this situation to say yes or 不要 to say no –  50-3 Jan 15 at 11:12
    
Yes I was try to express that I didn't need the most literal or closest translation possible, just whether this way is grammatical or natural sounding. –  hippietrail Jan 15 at 11:18
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Grammatically correct enough for spoken language, and completely understandable. But it doesn't sound native. For question 放不放(要不要) 辣/辣油/辣椒?, possible yes answer from a native speaker would be 放./放辣./多放点辣. (if asked by "要不要" then replace 放 with 要.) I feel "我爱辣" a little exotic because I don't often hear "我爱" speaking out from a Chinese man, maybe it expresses a strong feeling in Chinese culture (at least in where I've been to, northeastern, middle, and southern), we often say "我喜欢" instead -- but even "我喜欢辣" sounds a little roundabout to that question. –  Stan Jan 15 at 12:04
    
My Chinese is way too poor to catch exactly how they're asking me but from the word "la" and the context I figure out what they're asking me. –  hippietrail Jan 15 at 12:13
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What stan said is right. 放点辣/多放点辣/少放点辣 may sound native. –  einverne Jan 15 at 13:11

4 Answers 4

This happens when the food can be cooked with (little or much) or without spicy. People ask how should the food cook for you, 我爱辣 (a weird expression) answers this question indirectly -- I like spicy so please put a lot of it in the food. The direct answers could be:

  1. 不要 (bùyào) / 不要辣 (bùyào là) / 不放辣椒 (bù fàng làjiāo) "cook without spicy"
  2. 微辣 (wēi là) / 少放点 (shǎo fàng diǎn) / 一点点 (yī diǎndiǎn) "cook with a little spicy"
  3. 要 (yào) / 多放点 (duō fàng diǎn) "cook with a lot of spicy"

要 (yào) should mean default spiciness and be enough for most people. 多放点 (duō fàng diǎn) is for those who really enjoy spicy.

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Sometimes it's not even cooking. For example today I bought I kind of egg sandwich in a hutong in Beijing. So it was already cooked/prepared but she microwaved it then added the spicy sauce and another sauce and some lettuce leaves. –  hippietrail Jan 15 at 14:35
    
@hippietrail, I suppose your kind of egg sandwich is 煎饼果子 –  Bolu Jan 15 at 15:20
    
@Bolu: Actually it looked more similar to a 肉夹馍 than what I see on Google Image Search for 煎饼果子. –  hippietrail Jan 15 at 15:31

When I first saw the question title, I thought you were looking for a way to express the statement 'I love spicy food', which is what 我爱辣 sounds like.

Although grammatical, 我爱辣 doesn't sound very natural, probably because the pronunciation of is close to the tone particle . A more natural expression is 我爱吃辣, in which (eat) nails la4 into the context of food.

If you're looking for expressions to respond to the question equivalent to 'how spicy do you like your food' in Chinese, I think you should phrase the response based on the format of the question, instead of using a uniform statement. E.g.

Q: 菜里要不要放辣椒?

A: 要/要放/要放辣椒。

Q: 放点辣椒好不好?

A: 好。

Q: 要辣的还是不辣的?

A: 辣的。

Q: 要多少辣椒?

A: 不要辣椒/要一点点/很多/越辣越好。

Etc.

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In English "I love spicy food" is often my actual response in the same situation. "Do you like/want hot sauce/chilli/etc"? Rather than just answer "yes" or "yes please". Part of the problem was I expected the format of the answer might depend on the format of the question and as my Chinese was too poor to understand the question other than the context of the vendor holding up some chilli paste etc and me discerning the word "la" amongst the other undiscernable speech. I just wanted to answer in a fun way that worked and wondered if it is a correct or natural way or not. –  hippietrail Jan 16 at 5:13
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@hippietrail In that case, '我爱吃辣(的)' is the expression you're looking for:) –  NS.X. Jan 16 at 11:44

This is more of an expansion on NSX's comment from above, but hopefully it gives you something extra to learn.

  • 我爱吃辣的 "I love to eat spicy food"
  • 我喜欢吃辣的 "I like eating spicy food" if you don't want to emphasize the 'love' part, you just want to state matter of factly that you like eating spicy food

You might get asked by new acquaintances 你可以吃辣的吗? or 你吃不吃辣的? "Can you eat spicy food?". You could say 我不怕辣! "I'm not scared of spicy food".

There is also a colloquialism which I am not sure of the origins 不怕辣,辣不怕,怕不辣 (bù pà là, là bù pà, pà bù là). It doesn't translate well into English, but it's something like "I'm not scared of spicy food, I'm only scared the food is not spicy". If you are a confident person and can pull this out it often gets a laugh.

If you often eat lots of spicy food you may hear people say 他不怕吃辣的 "He's not scared of eating spicy food" when describing you.

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If you are answering to a waitress, just use the following words would be fine:

  • 请免辣,谢谢 - I don't like spicy at all!
  • 微辣,谢谢 - I like spicy but I don't want it too spicy
  • 多放点辣,谢谢 - I like spicy very much! Give me a lot!
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"请免辣" sounds a little too pedant to me. –  Stan Jan 17 at 6:10
    
@Stan what about 我要免辣的? Sometimes I also say 一点辣椒也不要,谢谢. –  Aw Qirui Guo Jan 17 at 12:06
    
Just personal feeling :D I didn't say it's "wrong" ... –  Stan Jan 17 at 15:02

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