The love of spicy food is global. Every continent has multiple dishes that make use of the chili pepper, a fruit that originated in Central America. While some food cultures have been more closely associated with spicy foods than others, cooks around the world have found diverse and creative ways to use hot peppers. Here are 10 of the spiciest foods in the world that should be on the radar of any spicy food fan. When you have a chance to try any of these, take the opportunity.
Table of Contents
- Goan vindaloo
- Sichuan hotpot
- Jamaican jerk chicken
- Kimchi jjigae
- Papa al a Huancaina
- Sik sik wat
- Spicy wings
- Must read related posts
Note: our spiciest foods in the world list contemplates full dishes only. They are globally-loved dishes that have a history of spiciness. For this list, we don’t consider extremely spicy foods where a super-hot chili is simply added atop a food without a “spicy” track record. Not do we consider hot sauces (a condiment) for this list. We recommend exploring both our hot pepper list and our hot sauce rankings to discover the spiciest in these categories.
Sometimes spelled faal or phall, phaal is a British-Indian invention and has achieved renown on both sides of the Atlantic as the world’s hottest curry. Phaal has a thick tomato base that is usually spiced with some of the hottest peppers in the world.
Phaal may be served with yogurt to help tone down its heat. Since it’s not a traditional Indian curry, the chilies are not the ones that you might see used in classic Indian dishes. The peppers that you will often see used in a phaal include scotch bonnets, ghost peppers, and habaneros.
Along with the peppers, phaal ingredients are the standard ones that you see in other curries, including ginger and fenugreek. As opposed to traditional curries, phaal has a reputation as a challenging dish that is eaten for competitive purposes rather than for pure enjoyment. Phaal is generally harder to find in UK curry houses than the ubiquitous vindaloo, which has a long history as a notoriously hot Indian curry.
Goan vindaloo comes from the former Portuguese colony of Goa in India. While phaal may be the hottest curry that you can get in a UK curry house, vindaloo is the hottest widely available one.
Vindaloo’s origin lies in the Portuguese dish carne de vinho d’alhos, which made its way to India in the 15th century with European colonizers. The original carne de vinho d’alhos is a dish of meat marinated and cooked in wine, vinegar, and garlic. Vindaloo is the Goan version made with Indian ingredients and to suit Indian taste preferences.
For example, the Indian version replaced vinegar — an ingredient not widely used in India — with tamarind. The Portuguese also brought chili peppers to Goa with them from the Americas. From Goa, the peppers would spread to the rest of India and become one of the fundamental elements of the subcontinent’s cuisine. The meat in traditional vindaloo is pork, which is a rarity in India outside of Goa.
Sometimes spelled jjamppong, jjambbong is a noodle soup dish from Korea. The base of jjambbong is a rich pork broth that sometimes has chicken, dried anchovies, or seaweed added for umami; some versions have all three umami sources. Jjambbong’s heat comes from gochugaru chili powder, which is also the source of heat in other Korean dishes like kimchi jjigae; chili oil may also be added. Other jjambbong ingredients include seafood like squid, mussels, and shrimp.
Traditional jjambbong has a vegetable component that can vary, but you will usually see shiitake mushrooms used, along with onions and cabbage. Jjambbong came from Chinese immigrants to Incheon, Korea and is a derivative of a Japanese-Chinese dish called champon or chanpon. Originally called chaomamian by the Chinese, some versions of the origin story claim that it was given its name by the Japanese as they occupied Korea in the early part of the 20th century.
Also called Sichuan huoguo, Sichuan hotpot is the spicy Sichuan version of a Mongolian dish. Sichuan hotpot became popular in China’s Sichuan province in the early 20th century and has since become emblematic of Sichuan cuisine and food from Chongqing — a city in Sichuan — in particular.
In the years since its inception, Sichuan hotpot has become a Chinese favorite both in China and in other parts of the world, including the US. Like Mongolian hotpot, Sichuan hotpot is a communal dish that is enjoyed as people socialize around a pot of steaming, peppery broth. Various ingredients are poached in the broth before being eaten.
Sichuan hotpot ingredients can include different kinds of sliced meat like lamb and beef as well as seafood, vegetables and noodles. The hotpot’s distinctive heat comes from the combination of chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, which are commonly mistaken for chili peppers but are not related to them.
Jamaican jerk chicken
You will find Jamaican jerk chicken listed among the best-known dishes from the Caribbean island nation. The dish — which is difficult to find outside of Jamaica in its authentic form — is a kind of grilled chicken. Jerk chicken is traditionally cooked over charcoal. The grills used for jerk chicken in Jamaica typically consist of steel drums cut in half.
Jerk chicken gets its heat from scotch bonnet peppers, which are the most popular chili peppers in Jamaica. Other essential flavors come from scallions, garlic and — most importantly — allspice used in a marinade. A long marination time is essential for jerk chicken; some versions are marinated for 24 hours or longer and holes are poked in the chicken to allow the marinade to soak in.
Some imitation jerk seasonings will attempt to get the essential allspice flavor by cobbling together other spices like cinnamon and cloves, but only allspice provides the authentic Jamaican taste. The jerk name is said to come from charqui, a native South American word from which also gave rise to the word jerky for smoked and dried meat.
While versions of kimchi jjigae can vary somewhat in their ingredients, you can usually describe them as stews or soups made with kimchi. Kimchi is the iconic Korean fermented cabbage that is spiced with gochugaru. Kimchi jjigae is often consumed as a communal dish similar to Sichuan hotpot and served with side dishes called banchan.
The dish is an ancient one and one of the Korean dishes that are most popular with Koreans. Even though it is regarded as a hot dish today, kimchi jjigae’s existence predated the arrival of chili peppers in Korea in the 17th century and was originally mild. The gochugaru in kimchi is one source of the kimchi jjigae’s heat along with gochujang. Traditional kimchi jjigae will include a protein, which is usually fatty pork — pork belly is the best option — but beef and chicken will work as well. There are vegan or vegetarian versions that use tofu.
Papa al a Huancaina
Peru’s classic potato dish can be deceptive for two reasons: the first is that it is bright yellow, which is not a color traditionally associated with peppery heat. Bright red is the traditional hot pepper color. Another reason that papas a la Huancaina may be underestimated is that it is served at room temperature rather than hot, which may cause you to think of it as a refreshing salad rather than the searingly spicy dish that it can be.
The traditional ingredients are queso fresco and aji amarillo chilies, with a little oil and milk. The mixture is thickened with saltine crackers, which is a part of what gives it a unique flavor and texture. In modern kitchens, the ingredients are beaten until smooth in a food processor or blender, but the traditional method uses a mortar and pestle. The Huancaina in the dish’s name comes from the origin story of a woman from the city of Huancayo who supposedly made the dish for railroad workers; Huancaina means woman from Huancayo.
Sik sik wat
The word wat in Ethiopian cooking refers to stews. All wats are spicy, especially by European and North American standards. Sik sik wat is a beef stew renowned for its high level of heat. The heat and much of the flavor come from berbere spice, a spice blend that shows up in many Ethiopian dishes. Berbere spice components can vary according to the cook’s preferences, but chili peppers will provide much of the flavor, while other popular spices include cinnamon, fenugreek, and coriander.
The kind of berbere spice used for sik sik wat is heavy on the chilies. Aside from the berbere spice, sik sik wat is made with tomato purée and wine as well as a spiced clarified butter called niter kibbeh. Niter kibbeh’s flavor comes from ingredients like ginger, turmeric, and garlic. Traditional sik sik wat accompaniments include injera (teff bread) and/or rice.
The consensus among food historians is that the invention of the spicy wing as a dish occurred in 1964 in Buffalo, New York. The dish achieved national prominence in the US during the mid-1980s to early 1990s when chains like McDonald’s and Domino’s added versions to their menus. Buffalo wings have continued in popularity but while they may have been spicy for people in 1960s Buffalo, they are relatively tame by modern standards.
The intervening years have seen an increase in the heat levels of spicy wings, with the attempt to balance flavor and heat giving way to pure heat. Today, there are numerous restaurants around the world — but mostly in the US — offering ultra-hot spicy wing variations like ghost pepper wings and Carolina Reaper wings (made using super-hot Carolina Reaper peppers.) The standard Buffalo wing mix gets its heat from Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and may include other seasonings like garlic powder and black pepper. The basic Buffalo wing recipe can be adjusted to include everything from ghost pepper powder to capsaicin extract, any of which will increase the heat level tremendously.
Considered one of the main dishes of Haitian cuisine, griot is a dish that consists of fried chunks of pork shoulder. The dish gets its heat from a seasoning blend called epis that is similar to Hispanic sofrito. Epis consists of citrus juice — lime or sour orange — mixed with garlic, scallions, and scotch bonnet chilies to provide the heat. The pork shoulder is cut into chunks and washed with citrus juice before being marinated in the epis. The pork chunks are braised before being fried in hot oil until crispy. Griot is traditionally served alongside pikliz, a kind of pickled relish.
Must read related posts
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- How To Make Homemade Salsa Hotter: Sure you can just add more fresh chilies, but there are other ways that may keep your visual balance better in plating.
- Are Dried Peppers Hotter Than Fresh? When choosing between dried and fresh chilies, what should you expect?