Today is, apparently, national hot and spicy food day, and you’re not properly celebrating if your meal isn’t making you feel like you’re about to spontaneously combust. Where, you ask, should you go in this city for volcanic heat?
One surefire way to embrace the burn is to order a green papaya salad from a decent Thai restaurant and ask the kitchen to make it Thai hot. Thai chili builds wickedly and seems to be enhanced by the tart lime that permeates many Thai dishes, and without the soothing mitigation of something like coconut milk or rice, neither of which come with green papaya salad, you’ll eventually feel like your insides are liquefying. Try versions at Zabb Elee and Pure Thai for proof.
Szechuan peppercorns lead to a numbing sensation, but add enough of them, and they’ll make you feel like you’re breathing fire. They’re kicked up significantly for the ma po tofu at Mission Chinese, but if you want them in slightly more authentic fare, good bets are Xi’an Famous Foods–where the cooks will add enough spice to your hand-pulled noodles that they’re no longer even pleasant–Lan Sheng or Szechuan Gourmet up in Midtown, or Spicy & Tasty out in Flushing.
Like Thai heat, Indian heat builds, though it’s underscored by earthiness rather than brightness. The most obvious place to find this kind of fare is, perhaps, Brick Lane Curry House, where the kitchen turns out a phaal so packed with dry heat, it’s devoid of all other flavor. Order it, and it will probably ruin the rest of your meal. For slightly more balanced spice, head around the corner from the East Village Brick Lane to Sigiri, a Sri Lankan joint that serves dishes similar in flavor profile to south Indian cuisine that will definitely make you sweat.
If you like your spicy food more American-centric, you could also go check out the Peaches Hot House hot chicken, where you’ll find Nashville-style chicken inundated with cayenne.
Do you know of a spot that serves hotter food than those we mentioned? Tell us about it in the comments.