Chicken with Sweet Chilli Sauce and…A Pampering Nightmare

In my Christmas stocking was a pampering package to a Day Spa.  I vaguely recalled hearing very positive things about this Spa.  Yesterday I set out for what I expected would be a relaxing and rejuvenating  and indulgent day out.

Barbecued Chicken with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

When I walked through the door I immediately just loved how serene and clean and fresh the place was and the entry was wonderfully fragranced with essential oils.  But behind the counter there were three young girls who stared at me totally mute.  And I don’t mean to show my age but I did notice they were all studded with hardware.  Am I the only one who finds it a little off-putting when people have studs through lips, eyebrows, noses, chins, cheeks etc?  And I do wonder if they went near anything magnetic would they be thrown off-course.  So the girls just stood there, silent, until another beautician emerged to show me through to a treatment room.

I loved how the room was presented and there was even a flower on the bed with a little sign saying, ‘This room has been especially prepared for Charlie’ and I thought that was very welcoming.

The pampering began with my feet and legs having an exfoliating scrub.  It was like heaven.  But then the beautician started asking me questions.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you would know that I loathe this line of questioning.

‘So how’s your day been so far?’  And it was early in the morning so obviously I had done nothing except get ready for this appointment.  But I went along and said, ‘Quite good thanks.’

‘So what have you got planned for the afternoon?’

‘Oh, not much’.

‘So what have you got planned for your weekend?’

‘We haven’t made any plans yet.’

‘So how was your Christmas?’  And I have no wish to be rude but as I was there to relax I really didn’t want to tell a stranger how I had spent my morning and what my plans were for the afternoon and the weekend and divulge the tribal wars that go on within the family when we get together for Christmas.

Marinating Chicken

Next it was baring all for a half hour hot stone massage.  I’d never had one before.  I hated it.  I thought it would be tension relieving and relaxing but her hands seemed to be going over parts of my back and neck that were making me hold my breath, screw up my face and scrunch my shoulders.  And the hot stones barely featured in the massage and I’m sure her fingernails were scratching my back.  I counted the minutes until it would be over.

Then I had a facial.  The lights went out, there was soft music playing and after the questionaire I had been put through and the tension of the massage I was ready to relax.  The facial was going quite well and my breathing was beginning to return to normal levels when the door opened, the lights came on and in walked someone else.  This person started doing a mini pedicure on my feet during the facial.  I couldn’t see what she was doing and I did want to have some sort of input as to how the toenails would be shaped but she just went right ahead.  The sawing of my toenails had me flinching and grimacing but the beautician giving the facial carried on, apparently oblivious.

Then the girl started doing a mini-manicure and the sawing of my nails started again.  The file was hitting the nerve and after three hit nerves I sat up (mid facial) and asked, ‘What kind of a file are you using?  Is that a metal file?  I hate metal files.’  And she said, ‘It’s not metal, it’s glass.’  And I said, ‘Do you have anything softer?’  And she just stared at me looking stunned and the other beautician said, ‘Are you right for me to continue the facial?’   So I lay back down and they both just carried on.

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

I had a hydrating rose masque put on my face.  The other beautician continued sawing away at my nails and did a very terrible job with my nails ending up different lengths and shapes.  She didn’t complete the filing so instead of being rounded and smooth they were sharp and scratchy.  She then buffed the nails but buffed my skin as well and that didn’t need that kind of aggressive exfoliation.  With my nails dusty and full of debris, she then started applying the polish (poorly) so of course the polish was not going to adhere to the nails.

When it was all over I was given a glass of water.  But not a Valium.

My finger nails were chipped and smudged before I even left the premises.

One must be grateful for small mercies and I’m only too glad I didn’t go there for a Brazilian.

Have you had a horror pampering experience?

A comforting meal is what one needs after a day of pampering turns into a nightmare and a tender, marinated organic chicken is what worked for me.

Barbecued Chicken with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  3/5

Barbecued Chicken with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Cost:  I had most of these ingredients in my pantry so only needed to buy the chicken and one or two other items so quite an inexpensive family meal.

  • 1 size 16 chicken or 4 chicken maryland
  • 1/2 tspn white peppercorns
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 coriander (cilantro) roots, washed and scraped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bottom half only, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1-2 small chillies, chopped
  • 2 tspns peeled fresh turmeric or pinch of powdered turmeric
  • 4 tbsps fish sauce
  • 2 tbspns soy sauce
  • 1 tbspn palm sugar

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice or coconut vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaf and stem
  • 2-6 small red chillies, finely chopped

Cut the chicken into pieces or, if using maryland, cut at the joint and place in a large bowl.

Grind the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, then add the garlic, coriander root, lemongrass, chillies and turmeric and pound to a paste.  Mix with the fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar and add marinade to chicken pieces, rubbing to coat well.  Marinate overnight or for a minimum of two hours.  Cook slowly on a preheated moderate barbecue (grill), turning often.  The chicken can also be roasted in a moderate (180C/350F) oven.  I used the roasting method because I like how the chicken cooks in the marinade.  Transfer to a plate and serve with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce.

To make dipping sauce:  Combine sugar, vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil, cooking over a high heat until the sauce has reduced by half.  Stir in the garlic, coriander and chillies and remove from heat.

This recipe is from Spirit House, Essentially Thai





  1. Sounds like a day of torture rather than pampering !

    A little while ago I bought a package deal, steam bath, massage and facial – I thought they could be take at different times – I was wrong ! Had to take them all at the same time even though I only booked in for the massage when I called. Anyway, the girl was very nice – by herself in the spa – and the music was playing from a computer – which kept on stopping – so, cardinal sin #1 when massaging – she kept on running out the room to get the music on again instead of just going with no music – it was just awful – hand son – hands off -door open – door closed – hands on – hands off – door open – door closed. I was so tempted to sa leave the bloody music and massage – but I didn’t, I suffered in silence !

    Today I went for my Christmas voucher facial – an older lady this time – at a really expensive place – and she did the questioning thing as well !!! I couldn’t believe it – same as you, I went there for a relaxing time not to be grilled on my day and Christmas as well !! The worst was she would wait until I was just relaxing and going t the twilight zone and then fire another question which I would politely answer, not ask her anything and then relax just to the twilight zone when she would fire another question. I couldn’t believe it. As a therapist myself if the client is n the table and they ask questions, will talk but if they lie down and they dn’t say anything, I certainly don’t start any conversation.

    Sometimes you have to question where people were taught and what ethics were taught there !

    If you are ever on the Gold Coast and want a massage, hot stone or reflexology treatment – with no talking – give me a shout !

    Have a great Sunday.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I didn’t know you’re a therapist. Thanks for the offer. I will let you know when I will be on the Gold Coast. Yes, it all depends on the training. I think a lot of the young girls these days have done express courses and within a few weeks they’re in a salon touching clients. Not really good enough.

  2. No, I am a pamperoholic.

  3. Sorry to here the pampering wasn’t (or was) up to scratch. Chicken sounds nice though…

  4. It sounds like a comforting meal was definitely the order of the day….the chicken and the dipping sauce sound like they fit the bill!

  5. Ouch! What a terrible day. I hate having to make small talk at spas/hair dressers. I’d much prefer to be antisocial and not talk at all!

  6. Oh my god that sounds AWFUL. And THAT is why I’ll probably never go for a spa treatment. Just hand me a delicious meal like this and i’ll be MUCH better off.

  7. I’ve never had a horrible experience, just ones that weren’t completely relaxing. Sorry to hear about your experience. You should say something to the management and maybe they’ll give you a voucher for free services with different individuals.

  8. I went for my second massage at a local “spa.” The first one had been wonderful and relaxing. I had a different masseuse the second time. Couldn’t walk right for a week! She had somehow pinched a nerve in my lower back. I’ve been scared of massages ever since.

  9. Just mouthwatering…looks so fresh, crisp & delicious!

  10. That’s too bad, Charlie, I had quite the opposite experience last week at the Still Water Spa at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto. It was quite possibly the best massage I’ve ever had and my pedi is still gorgeous (I always do French pedi). I do hope you will spec out another spa so you can have my experience! The Chicken looks delicious, I wish I could taste it.

  11. Unacceptable that what should have been a perfect heavenly day out turned out to be so.. urgh…well like you say, at least you didn’t go for a Brazilian! Thankfully I have no nightmares to report but then again it is only once in every 100th blue moon that I have the opportunity to be pampered. Nicely rescued with a delicious comforting meal.
    🙂 Mandy

  12. I can’t decide which sounds better, the barbecued chicken or the hydrating rose masque. What a lovely stocking stuffer!

  13. Phyllis Ryan says:

    I have a woman who has been giving me a massage every third Thursday for the past 5 years. We speak for the first few minutes, and then all is peace and quiet until she is finished. She recommended a woman to do a facial a few weeks ago. You should come with me next time. Small quiet room, she started with a warm foot bath of herbs, then I laid on the table, closed my eyes and was pampered beyond belief. My feet were rubbed, oiled and wrapped in a wamy towel. My face was treated to several soothing treatments, and I fell asleep. So sorry that your experience was so very bad, when it should have been so very good.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      It sounds like you have found the perfect massage therapist. Hang on to her! And she has great recommendations! That’s fantastic. Glad you had the right kind of experience.

  14. Bummer about your day of pampering gone wrong. Your chicken looks lovely….yum!

  15. I cannot say I have a spa day quite like yours. However, sometimes this line of questioning is important because after one massage I could barely walk for the next day or so. I wish I would have told her that I had plans that required walking later on. I have had a horrible manicure and that was quite painful and had to be on constant guard to not get some type of infection in a few of my cuticles. I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience.

  16. I can only laugh!

    I hate day spa’s and pampering packages. I can’t think of anything worse than stripping down to next nothing with some tiny thing half my age gas bagging on! Plus it drives me mental thinking about wasting two hours doing nothing when there are so many more productive thing which could be done i that time.

    I have had the horror filer, who goes ahead and scratches my cuticles off. The feather style massage where the girl who weighed 30 kgs couldn’t apply any pressure whilst rubbing, and the other extreme also.

    I would rather go in for a wax job. You expect that to be painful and it is productive ie: it gets one of the maintenance jobs done.

    For me day spa’s are always torture.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I was actually thinking while I was there being ‘pampered’ of all the things I could otherwise be doing! Your comment had me laughing. Very funny. I’m glad I’m not alone. Yes, I’m need of some waxing. Should have had that done instead.

  17. What a horrible experience! I think you need to name and shame or at least tell them what an awful time you had. No one should be put through that.

    I loathe being talked to when I go for a beauty treatment. I just want to lie there in silence and relax.

  18. It pretty much mirror my experience this past Wednesday. But the stones in my massage left burns and my lass wouldn’t say a word …

  19. Ack! You poor thing. I have facials and massages a lot and when you get a good person you just want to hang onto them. My favourite gal moved overseas and I still think about when she might come back lol.

  20. OH no I got one of these as a gift as well and haven’t been yet….. o h the dread . The Chicken recipe looks delish as does everything from the Spirit house

  21. Oh dear – that does not sound like a fun experience. I bought a spa session for my wife last year as a Christmas gift when we went on a winter holiday to Stockholm for a few days. I think her experience was generally good, although she felt a bit nervous the whole time which kind of detracted from the whole experience. She came back soft though 😀

    Great looking chicken dish 🙂 I love the stuff barbecued… with it’s smoky, sticky skin… nom nom

  22. Oh my…I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! Not relaxing at all! I’ve never had any truly bad experience, but I too dislike alot of talking when I just want to relax and enjoy my time. No questions asked, no questions answered!

  23. I love spas but only if I know exactly what is going to be done to me. I remember having a massage once that made me so uncomfortable I got up and left half way through! GG

  24. Oh, my gosh! I HATE spas. Though I say that as someone who has never been to one…so I suppose it’s an uninformed opinion but I hold it just the same. I don’t like people touching my feet or hands. A massage I could go for, but get away from my face! I just don’t resond well to that kind of pampering, I suppose. BUT…I loved your story about it!!!!! Were you lying there thinking, “I am so blogging about this!!?”!!!!!!

  25. I love the pacing in the images of this lovely and deliciously tender looking chicken with the description of this horrific spa experience. The sawing on the nails send chills up my spine as that is my worst nightmare about “spa” experiences…next to the questioning when you’re trying to relax. There is something about barbecuing a chicken that totally makes sense as a great counterpoint and remedy. Thanks for the laugh, the shiver and the great recipe!

  26. Dear oh dear! I try the odd massage as I have relaxation ‘issues’, but I just pop into those Asian places in the mall where they don’t speak much English so there’s no chatting!
    Nice comfort food for later though!

  27. Upon reading “When it was all over I was given a glass of water. But not a Valium.” I literally almost spit the beer I was drinking out from laughter. 🙂 Sorry to hear it wasn’t relaxing.

  28. Lucas @ says:

    Call those “hairdresser questions” and the funny thing is that they don’t actually need your input to continue. They can pull out that search string for 24-48 hours.

  29. I get quite bad knots in my back and shoulders, I also suffer from migraines, the massage place I normally go to was closed for renovations so I went to a place in another mall with the same name. The lady claimed they were the same company so I gave it a go. So I lay down and she comes in and begins, then she starts talking – trying to sell me other services. Eventually I said, “Look all I want is this nice relaxing massage to relieve my migraines and remove the knots, I don’t want any other services ok?!” she replied by telling me how accupuncture could relieve migraines and she could do me a special – so I proceeded to ignore her from then on. I guess she got bored because she and the masseuse in the next room started a conversation (a loud one) in Chinese… queue massive sigh.
    When she finished I felt tighter than I thought I should but went out to pay, she took my money… I waited for change, she put the money in her pocket (still conversing with the other masseuse) when she was done she asked me to pay again. It took me a while to convince her I already had and she owed me change. Later that night my entire back seized up, rather than removing the knots she had just pushed them all outwards making a horseshoe of compounded knots in my back from underarm to underarm. I couldn’t even turn my head. Missed a days work and cost me a lot more money to fix the damage. Went back to confront her about it she pretended she couldn’t speak English (I had thought this might happen and had taken my Chinese friend with me), turns out legally only the store holder is checked for qualifications then they can hire whoever they want so she wasn’t qualified. She then abused me at length in Chinese and accused me of being racist for not liking her massage… NEVER AGAIN!!!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That is an unbelievable story. How awful for you. I can’t believe they would let just anyone give you a massage. You should only be allowed to treat people if you’re qualified.

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