Handle the Heat? Spiciest Destinations Ever
I have to admit, I have my doubts over some of these. We’re Indians. We know spice. We can handle spicy food. So when somebody tells me that, for instance, a curry made in Indian restaurants in Birmingham made them cry, I automatically say, ‘Well, you’re English. Have you tried Telangana food?’ Invariably, they haven’t. And having had Telangana food very recently and watered from all facial orifices liberally, I doubt a curry from Birmingham could be spicier than the mutton curry made the traditional Telangana way. Nevertheless, here you have it. The foods reputed to be the spiciest in the world, and where you can find them.
Again – huge doubts. Anybody who has gone to Goa has had the vindaloo, and while it’s very pleasantly spicy, it doesn’t really make you cry. If you cry because you ate pork vindaloo, you’re a wimp, and you don’t deserve to be in glorious Goa.
Phaal/Phall curry: Birmingham, UK
Do 12 chillies for about a kilo of chicken sound too spicy for you? Well, it doesn’t to me, but apparently, this curry, created in Indian restaurants in Birmingham, has reduced many grown men to tears. One story suggests that it was created as a bit of a dare, so perhaps it is as hot as it says. For the best version of it, go to an Indian restaurant in Birmingham and find out for yourself.
Sichuan hot pot: Chongqing, China
A hot pot is a kind of stew that is left simmering in the middle of the table. This particular hot pot has a lot of Sichuan pepper as well as chilli, so it will numb your tongue. Chongqing in mainland China is where you find this particularly fiery hot pot. In most other places in China, they’re much milder.
Pic: Matt Ryall
Suicide wings: Buffalo, NY
Wings are delicious. It’s the sauce that makes them so delicious. But we know that there are different ratings for sauces, right down to the one I call ‘incredibly poor decision-making skills’, that they call suicide wings. This is so spicy that they make you sign a waiver before you order these at many restaurants. You’ll find multiple wings places all over Buffalo, New York.
Suicide wings at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York Pic: Yuri Long
Creole Cau Cau: Peru
A lot of Peruvian cuisine uses strong spices, but this one doesn’t look very spicy. It looks all creamy and full of potatoes. But that’s what lulls you into a false sense of security, because it contains an alarming quantity of a yellow pepper called yellow aji. It also has tripe in one version and seafood in another, so it’s not just the spice that might give you pause. But it looks incredibly harmless, so if somebody’s been mean to you and you want to get your own back...
Gekikara Raman: Japan
Japan is not really known for its spicy food – it’s known for flavour and quality of ingredients rather than heat. But that goes out of the window when you get gekikara Raman, because this particular Raman dish is special in its ability to make unsuspecting grown men cry.
Kimchi figures on a lot of lists since spice levels vary and some versions of kimchi are extremely hot. Buldak is an extremely fiery Korean chicken dish that (at least, according to what I’ve been told) translates almost literally to ‘fire chicken’. If you’re in a Seoul street food market, try this one and let me know if it’s as big a challenge as it’s made out to be.
This Ethiopian dish is a meat stew, sometimes with vegetables, usually served on a bread called injera. It’s the spice rub that gives it the heat that gets it on this list. Called berbere, this mixture can have garlic, ginger, chilli, ajwain, methi, basil, rue, korarima (like a cardamom) and rue. So this packs different kinds of heat.
Tom Yum: Thailand
We have quite a few Thai restaurants in India, so the idea that Tom Yum is that spicy is a bit odd. But apparently, authentic Tom Yum is made with loads of bird’s eye chillies, which are extremely hot. But on the flip side, bird’s eye chilli is called ‘kanthari’ in Kerala, and kanthari chutney is one of our favourite accompaniments for kappa. So I’m adding kanthari chutney as part of no. 9. Because this is my list and I can.
Pic: Kent Wang
The tiny ones are kanthari. You should know that we have this plant at home and that my mum puts this in very veggie dish she makes. Stomach of iron, baby. Pic: aislinnv
Anything with Naga King Chilli: Northeast India
I have a tiny bottle of the essence of this incredible chilli in my spice cupboard. I have had it for about two years, and it’s still got enough to last about ten years at my current rate. I put a tiny drop in meat curries, and until I got the size of that drop right, we’d get red as beets and sniffle through meals. If you go to the northeast and eat any meat preparation with the king chilli in it, you’ll know what we mean.
Apparently somebody thought it was a good idea to make this drinkable, too. Pic: Mike Carter