The 4 Fieriest Cuisines in the World
Nov 10, 2020 09:39 AM EST | By Ernest Hamilton
There are several theories about why people love spicy food, but the dominant one is that chillies produce a chemical rush in the brain akin to riding a roller coaster. That rush of heat, the forehead sweat and slight chill that comes afterwards make spicy food a full sensory experience - one that mixes danger with pleasure.
Ever since chillies arrived from the new world in the 15th Century, culinarians have had an enduring love affair with the fiery fruit. But some cultures embraced the chilli more than others. This article will take a closer look at some of the finest spicy cuisines in the world, and offer up suggestions for dishes you can make at home. Proceed with caution!
Sichuan Brings the "Ma La"
A cornerstone of Sichuanese cuisine - cooking from the central Sichuan region of China - is what's known as "ma la." Literally translating to "numbing heat," Sichuanese chefs achieve this combo by mixing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns (a numbing spice that produces a sensation similar to putting your tongue on a battery.)
Famous in China and abroad for its spicy, sour, umami-rich stewing dishes, Sichuan cuisine is a truly unique cultural product. To try it yourself, make the ultra-popular Mapo Tofu.
Indian Food Is Chili-Forward and Flavourful
India immediately embraced the chilli upon its arrival from the New World. Since then, enterprising chefs and home cooks have found new and innovative ways to incorporate them. Dried Kashmiri chilli powder, whole dried chillies and fresh green chillies all routinely make their way into curries, chutneys and roast dishes.
For the ultimate fiery curry dish, try making the Goan vindaloo, a tart and spicy curry from Southern India.
Thai Cuisine Offers a Balanced, Fresh Heat
Thai isn't always spicy. In fact, Thai chefs in the west often have to add more dried chillies to dishes to satisfy their more masochistic diners. But when Thai food is hot, it's really hot. In Thailand, the prominent pepper is the bird's eye chilli, a fresh, fruity and fiery chilli that clocks in at upwards of 100,000 Scoville units (the standard unit for measuring heat.)
In some dishes, like the delicious pad gra prow, it's used in abundance.
If you're planning a trip to Thailand or making spicy Thai food at home, make sure to wear travel clothing that looks good and is sweat-wicking. It can get sweltering!
Jamaican Cooking Is All About the Scotch Bonnet
Not all the hottest cuisines are in Asia. Over in the Caribbean, the super-spicy scotch bonnet pepper is king. Similar to the Mexican habanero, the scotch bonnet hovers around 350,000 Scoville units (for reference, the jalapeno is about 5,000.) In Jamaica, it's used in jerk chicken, oxtail stews, curry chicken and rice and peas, among other dishes.
To incorporate scotch bonnets into your next dinner, make the always popular jerk chicken with this recipe from J. Kenji López-Alt.
If you like your dinner with a side of uncontrollable sweats, try one of these four ultra-hot cuisines for dinner today. Just make sure to keep a glass of milk at hand!