Mexican cuisine is nothing without chillies in it. With plenty of home-grown chillies like Jalapeno, Poblano, Serrano, Habanero and Ancho, it’s hard to find any food in Mexico that doesn’t contain a hot after taste. If you’re really brave, try the Pozole. But for something more commonplace, have Mexican Tacos prepared by ladling a spicy meat mixture along with beans and rich salsa onto a flat, soft, white tortilla flatbread.
If you’re really in search of adventure, wander around the streetfood stalls along popular lanes in order to sniff out the spiciest stir-fry dishes and soups. All Thai food uses aromatic herbs, spices and vegetables to create a fascinating, unique cuisine that is popular across the world. Try Tom Yum soup which is a tempting blend of spicy and sour, combined in perfect harmony in a bowl. The sourness comes from galangal, lemongrass and kaffir limes and the heat from hot Thai chillies. Fish or meat in thick red curry sauce that contains a base of shrimp paste and red chillies, is another popular menu item you might want to try.
In India, ‘spicy’ means adding chillies, garlic, cardamom, pepper and coriander as staples to almost any curry to create a balance of flavour and heat. If in search of a spicy curry, this is where herbs and spices meet extraordinary taste. For a combination of heat with meat, try Goa’s pork vindaloo which is prepared with kashmiri chillies, ginger, garlic, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and vinegar in a mouth-watering combination that will set your taste buds ablaze.
Parts of China have food preparations that are spicier than the rest, like the Sichuan province, for example. This south-western part of the country is known for infusing dried chillies, oil and its very own special Sichuan peppercorn into every dish to give it that zing that will keep only the most hard-core spice lovers coming back for more.
This country’s most famous dish is probably Jamaican Jerk chicken, made with a hot, spicy marinade that will not only burn your mouth but stick to its roof. But, any local who knows their spicy heat levels will tell you that the hottest dish around is their goat specialty. Jamaican curried goat isn’t made right if it doesn’t contain at least one Scotch Bonnet pepper and one is plenty! This pepper is what gives Caribbean food its unique piquant flavour. Locals add potatoes or coconut milk to the dish, to turn down the heat.
Korea’s mouth-numbing offering is ‘Buldak’ which literally translates to ‘Fire-chicken.’ If served in a restaurant, you can request the level of spiciness you’d like in the dish. The more popular and well known condiment from this country is a fermented cabbage preparation prepared with hot chillies, called Kimchi. The spiciness may make you weep but it can be seriously addictive.
With Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines influencing Malaysian dishes, you’ll be tasting the best of South-east Asian complexity and history through its exotic flavours . Do you want to know the taste of a thousand chillies exploding in your mouth? Then try Otak Otak which consists of dried chillies blended with minced fish and steamed in a banana leaf. At first glance it seems bland and unassuming, but don’t be misled. One bite and you’ll know what I mean.
For a taste of genuine Ethiopian cuisine, you’ll have to look a little beyond popular restaurants that cater more to generic tastes that can’t handle a good amount of spice. ‘Berbere’ is a spicy powder mix made of powdered chilli peppers and sprinkled liberally on most dishes. ‘Mitmita’ another seasoning mix, contains piri piri, cardamom, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and salt all ground together that then gives out a vibrant orange-red colour. Sample some Doro Wat, a chicken stew that is topped off with boiled eggs and berbere.
9. Sri Lanka
Once an active part of the spice trade route, this country’s rich history extends to its spice-laden cuisine too. You can get a variety of fish, vegetable or meat curries to suit any temperature level, but it’s the accompaniments that are often hot and flavourful. Take spicy coconut sambol, for instance, made from ground coconut, chilli paste, dried fish and lime juice. Test out for yourself whether Kukul Mas curry is as hot as the locals say it is. In addition to green chillies and curry leaves, they add chilli and curry powder, just to give it that extra oomph.
Here, green chillies are considered to be as commonplace as any other vegetable. So, you’ll find them used liberally in almost every dish. The national dish, Ema Datshi, contains cheese as well as green chillies. Phaksha Paa pork cooked with spicy red chilli and Momo dumplings stuffed with beef, cabbage or cheese are also popular and prepared using jalapeno-type peppers.