These classic wings are tossed in margarine and hot sauce, just like at Anchor Bar
where they were invented. Todd Coleman
We love heat. The burn from spicy foods is addicting, and we can’t get enough. It’s not all about in-your-face heat, though: the world’s most fantastically flaming peppers shine brightest when used in complex, layered dishes that have a big enough flavor to handle the burn. From the world’s finest curries to the best zesty tacos, it seems our obsession is shared with folks all over the globe.
But there are some standouts: China is full of spicy food, and nowhere is this more true than in the province of Sichuan, home of the titular peppercorns, which are known for producing a citrusy, mouth-numbing effect that combine with the region’s blazing chiles for a flavor known as ma la. One of the most iconic Sichuan dishes is mapo tofu, in which tofu and ground beef are cooked in a vibrant red chile sauce; another being Sichuan pork wontons, bathed in red chile oil. India, too, is known for bringing the heat. Vindaloo is a Goan with Portuguese roots that gets tartness from vinegar and tamarind and plenty of heat from a variety of chiles. Coming back to the US, we have our own spicy classics that run the gamut from sauced-up bar grub (yes, you, Buffalo wings) to the hybrid jalapeño-fortified cuisine we’ve created with our Southern neighbor.
Ready to bring the burn with the absolute best spiciest recipes in our arsenal? Consider this your fair warning. And we recommend not drinking water: it just makes it worse.
jeyuk bokkeum stir fried pork
Mexico City Spiced Edamame
“Pepper is for colds and coughs, and turmeric heals wounds,” says cookbook author Viji Varadarajan. In his native South India, milagu rasam, a broth made with those key ingredients, also includes a dose of tamarind, which is believed to help heal sore throats. Get the recipe for Milagu Rasam »
Lao Tomato Dip
Penn Hongthong, the author of Simple Laotian Cooking (Hippocrene, 2003), taught us that charring the vegetables for this dip is the secret to its smoky flavor.
Nashville Hot Chicken
The secret to Nashville’s famous hot chicken is in the layering: The bird is marinated in a spicy buttermilk brine, then dredged with more flour and spice, double-fried, and finally slathered with a fiery butter paste to create a crunchy, peppery coating. One bite into its burnished orange crust reveals first a tangy crunch, and then a deeper, complex spice that leaves a lingering fire behind. Adjust the heat by adding as much—or as little—cayenne as you like. Get the recipe for Nashville Hot Chicken »
Bright, earthy and spicy, this garlicky cilantro sauce hits all the right notes for a summer-time cook-out.
This tangy, spicy curry from Goa, India, has roots in vinh d’alho, a stew brought to the region by Portuguese colonists. Now an Indian restaurant staple, it comes in countless variations—some fiery, some mild—from the subcontinent to the British Isles. Get the recipe for Chicken Vindaloo »
2) Braise or Steam Meats and Fish
Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Koli Milagu Masala)
This richly spiced chicken dish is adapted from a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s classic Flavors of India (West 175 Publishing, 1995). According to Jaffrey, “What gives this a very special southern flavor is the use of fennel seeds, curry leaves, and, of course, the pulse (legume) urad dal. This is definitely a dish you will want to make very frequently.” We couldn’t agree more. Get the recipe for Chettinad Pepper Chicken »