Some like it hot, and if you’re one of those people who enjoys a high level of spice with your food, there are many destinations that can satisfy your cravings for heat (culinarily speaking). Heat-seeking foodies can get their fix in a variety of places both near and far and we’ve rounded up some of the spiciest spots to book a flight to. Keep in mind each country has both hot and not-so-hot dishes so every type of palate can be catered to.
If there’s one place known around the world for its fiery food in the form of deliciously decadent curries, it’s India. Not every Indian curry is a spicy one, but there are many that can set your mouth on fire. Vindaloo, for example, is one of the hottest choices you can make on an Indian menu. The spicy dish from Goa can be served with various types of meats and gets its heat from red chilies. The bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) is also found and used in various parts of India. It is thought to be one of the hottest chilies in the world (as in, you might hallucinate or burst into tears when you try it.)
Jamaica is known as a spicy food destination thanks to its famous jerk chicken. Jerk seasoning is a blend of spices that can go on pretty much everything, from fish to pork, but it is most often associated with chicken and goat, and it can have quite a spicy kick. That tongue-tingling warmth you feel when you eat jerk seasoning comes from the hot peppers used in the blend, often scotch bonnet chilli peppers or habaneros. You can find jerk huts all over Jamaica, each with their own take on the well-known seasoning blend.
While you might think of the pad Thai, spring rolls and creamy green curry you order from your local Thai restaurant as fairly tame, make no mistake about the level of heat in some traditional Thai dishes. If you want spice, you can find it in Thailand. Red and green Thai chilies are ground up and used in varying quantities and strengths in soups, curries, sauces and salads. Tom Yum soup hits all the notes that Thai food strives for: spicy, sweet, sour and salty – but especially spicy. Som tam (spicy papaya salad) has quite a kick, as do many other dishes here.
China, being as vast as it is, has a seemingly infinite array of dishes and variations on cuisines – many of which register pretty high on the heat scale. In particular Sichuan and Hunan food can be very spicy. Sichuan hot-pot, for instance, made with numerous Sichuan peppers, is known to be deliciously painful. Also from the region is the often-spicy ma po tofu seasoned in part with Sichuan-peppercorn powder. From the Hunan region try Gan Guo, made spicy-hot from fresh red and green chili peppers, or Hunan spicy beef.
Korea is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves spicy food. Anyone who has ever had kimchi, that flavorful fermented cabbage condiment, knows that there is spice to be found in Korea. Other potentially mouth-burning dishes include tteokbokki, a Korean street food of chewy rice cakes that gets its heat from gochujang chili paste; buldak (fire chicken), which comes doused in chili sauce; and jjambbong, a spicy seafood noodle soup.
Suicide hot wings, anyone? Any country where a dish with a name like that can be found on menus everywhere deserves a spot on our list. In addition to this spicy sports bar favorite, the U.S. is an amalgam of many cultures that you can be sure to find something fiery to eat in every state you visit. But back to those iconic hot wings: A rite of passage (or dare from a friend,) has people of all ages testing their tongue against hot wings so spicy they’ll make your eyes water.
Food in Sri Lanka is fragrant, fresh and in many cases, spicy thanks to the generous amount of chilies used in many curries, snacks and relishes. Most of what you eat in Sri Lanka will have a healthy dose of chili powder, especially the curries. Curry and rice is a staple here and comes in many forms. You’ll also find sambol in various forms – a spicy condiment meant to be eaten with curry to give it even more heat.
Singapore has the benefit of having a melange of cuisines at its core including Malaysian, Chinese and Indian, each of which offer some variety of spicy dishes to try. And since Singaporeans love to eat, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Fish head curry is a popular and very spicy dish of red snapper cooked in curry with vegetables. Other dishes with a spice-filled kick include chili crab, laksa and Indian mee goreng, a spicy fried noodle dish.
Mexico is synonymous with a lot of things: beaches, resorts, cultural attractions and in many cases – spicy food. While it might not be on the same heat scale as something you might get in Korea or India, there’s spice to be found in Mexico. Salsa verde (green salsa) and salsa roja (red salsa) can be made very spicy and add an instant burst of heat to your taco. The use of many different types of chili peppers and other types of hot peppers in various dishes give many Mexican dishes a hearty dose of heat.
Featured image: Koshy Koshy