The source was eventually located and emergency crews smashed their way into the Thai Cottage restaurant in D'Arblay Street only to find that the culprit was a 9lb pot of smouldering dried chillies. Chef Chalemchai Tangjariyapoon, who had been cooking a spicy dip, was amazed to find himself at the centre of the terror scare."We only cook it once a year - it's a spicy dip with extra hot chillies that are deliberately burned. To us it smells like burned chilli and it is slightly unusual. I can understand why people who weren't Thai would not know what it was but it doesn't smell like chemicals. I'm a bit confused."
Staff at the restaurant had already been evacuated by the time the dip was discovered. Supranee Yodmuang, a Thai Cottage waitress said: "The first we knew about it was at about 4.30 in the afternoon when the fire brigade came. They led us out to where the streets had been cordoned off and we waited there for about three hours.
The spicy dip, which is a speciality at the restaurant, is made from charred chillies, garlic flakes, dried shrimps, palm sugar, shrimp paste, tamarind and vegetable oil. The restaurant, which has been open for 17 years, is considering putting up posters to warn the public during future chilli cooking sessions.