Playing with fire - spicy dishes around the country
July 13th, 2012
03:15 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Here’s a recent news blast from

“New Zealand pizza chain Hell Pizza is living up to its name by introducing Pizza Roulette. What is Pizza Roulette? It seems the pizzeria will put two drops of the super-ultra spicy ghost pepper sauce onto only one slice of your pizza, but they won’t tell you which.”
I find this a useful way to divide people into two camps. Camp One sees this as the most exciting innovation in the world of eating; ghost peppers are, after all, the world’s spiciest chile. Camp Two makes a mental note to go nowhere near this place, and under no circumstances order this pizza.  

In fact, the food world seems to be going toward Camp One and getting spicier. Following are spots where you don’t necessarily have to bring your own ghost peppers to make sure the food is hot enough for you.
Mission Chinese - New York City and San Francisco, Calfornia
Chef and owner Danny Bowien is almost singlehandedly keeping Sichuan peppercorn growers in business with his newly expanded bicoastal empire. Two flames denote the spiciest dishes on the menu; I know two flames seems mild; I’d suggest multiplying each flame by five to approximate the true heat of each dish. Among the menu’s two-flamers: a great version of the classic Mapo Tofu; the insanely good Kung Pao Pastrami with explosive chiles; and the Thrice Cooked Bacon with rice cakes, which help cool down this dish just a teeny-tiny bit.

Kin Shop - New York City
At Harold Dieterle’s great Thai restaurant, the Spicy Duck Laab Salad has become a bit of a talking point. According to my friends, the spice experts at, customers were sending back the dish (a highly seasoned chopped duck salad spiked with toasted rice, chopped herbs and lime juice) because it was too spicy, even after servers described it as very spicy and nine out of ten on the spice chart.

But Dieterle wanted the dish to stay authentic and tongue-numbingly hot. So the dish remained crazy hot and now there are four stars next to it on the menu as a heat level warning. There are also four stars attached to the Jungle Curry with braised skate and calamari.
Lucy’s Fried Chicken - Austin, Texas
I didn’t see this coming: The spiciest dish in Austin, according to, can be found at Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Truth. Lucy’s Diablo Oysters are comprised of a half-dozen wood-fire-grilled oysters topped with two chiles - habanero-infused butter and jalapeño - as well as Parmesan and bacon. Happily for the heat-averse, there are other ways to dive into the grilled oysters, including the buffalo-sauced Lucha. And for those who want to have it both ways with Lucy’s oysters (sort of spicy, but not crazy), there’s the Texan with wild boar chorizo and cactus hot sauce.

Jitlada Thai Restaurant - Los Angeles, California
The outstanding restaurant critic Jonathan Gold called out this restaurant in his “99 Essential Restaurants 2011” list in the LA Weekly last November. Here’s Gold describing a Jitlada curry: “the infamous endorphin bomb khua kling phat tha lung, a beef curry that in its purest form is spicy enough to melt the bark off a log.”

And here’s Jitlada describing another, equally incendiary curry: “Laam talum pook is a chile-infused ‘wild’ curry (one without heat-softening coconut milk) of catfish and small green Thai eggplants, full of garlic, lemongrass, Kaffir lime peel, and black peppercorns still on sprigs...It ignites the mouth and burns long - even the raw carrots, cucumber slices, and cabbage on ice served alongside as a counterbalance don’t help much - but it leaves a wonderful, complex memory of flavors in the ashes.”

More from Food & Wine:

America’s Best Bars

Best Beer Bars in the U.S.

Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

America’s Most Over-the-Top Burgers

Summer Grilling Recipes


Hooked on cowhorn peppers (and possibly "happy hormones")

The killer curry challenge

The spiciest dish I ever ate

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Filed under: Bite • Content Partner • Dessert • Dishes • Food and Wine • Hot • Peppers • Restaurants • Stunt

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Mildred

    My heat tolerance has been developed out of self-defense. One of my best friends is half-Korean. His spice tolerance comes from that side of the family, not the Irish side.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  2. Burp

    @Stephen- the Trinidad Scorpion is not officially the hottest pepper..... yet. It is being tested in a university lab. I grew ghost peppers last year. When I harvested them and deseeded them for pickling, I wore chemical-resistant gloves and a breathing mask. One seed got on the burner of the stove. When I boiled water for tea the next day, the house filled with burning fumes like tear gas. But the ghost pepper is my favorite. Get your seeds from!

    July 16, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  3. Betty Rubble

    I'm a big fan of the mi$$ionary position.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  4. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    It makes me wery wery a-sad when I order the spicy (fill in blank here) and it is not spicy whatsoever.

    I do not see how people can not eat spicy food. That makes life about as fun as doing it mi$$ionary only.

    July 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Shirely U. Jest

      It's not about the heat. It's about the flavor. Heck, I can spray a can of mace in my mouth any time, I just don't choose to. But I am growing some ghost peppers for the first time. I hope I can enjoy them as much as you; but I don't know... How do they come out on the back end?

      July 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Just fine. The only time I experience THE RING OF FIRE is when I get the Blazin' Buffalo Wings at BWW.

        Heh. Blazin'.

        July 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  5. Stephen

    I thought the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was the new hottest pepper, not the ghost?

    Regardless, I'd like to try some of these.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Had some ghost pepper salsa a few weeks ago. Nice and spicy. This stuff had a smoky flavor to it, too. I have yet to find a food so spicy I can't eat it.

      July 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
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