There are those of us who seek out spicy foods on occasion, and there are those who seek it out as a form of self-inflicted masochism. Then again, there are those who see past the dichotomy of pain versus pleasure, and embrace all of the subtle nuances of the different kinds of spicy experience and give names to the feelings, from the “annoying” type of heat that masks any other good flavors a dish might have, to the “soothing” type of spice that certain Korean comfort-food soups have. Whether you’re looking to swiftly and efficiently clear out your sinuses or just warm yourself up from the inside out once the weather starts taking a turn for the dreary, there are countless ways to get your spicy food fix. We rounded up a few of our favorite mouth-numbing, heartburn-inducing recipes for your perusal. Keep the milk and the antacids on standby.
Start with traditional Napa cabbage kimchi, or ferment something else entirely, using this universal kimchi paste. And the best part about making a condiment like kimchi yourself is that you can amp up the heat as much or as little as you want.
Same goes for the brunch standard, the Bloody Mary. Do you prefer the kick in your Bloody to come from a bunch of splashes of hot sauce, or a generous spoonful of horseradish? You get to decide.
This Sichuan take-out classic is super easy to throw together, and is sure to make your eyes water, with hot bean sauce, ground chilies, and a sprinkling of cracked Sichuan pepper corns on top. We’ve even got a vegan version for you, too, if you want to leave out the ground beef.
Chunky, fresh udon noodles with pickled mustard greens, homemade spicy AF chili sauce, and gingery, flavorful stir-fried pork are the building blocks of this Sichuan comfort food.
If you’re going to follow anyone’s advice on spicy hand-torn lamb noodles, it should probably be Jason Wang from beloved Queens-based Western Chinese cuisine spot Xian Famous Foods.
No, China’s Sichuan province does not hold the monopoly on spicy signature dishes. Enter: Buffalo, New York. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce doesn’t use peppers that rank crazy-high on the Scoville scale, and even if it did, its heat is tempered in butter and vinegar, so classic Buffalo wings are the kind of spicy you can handle any night of the week.
The blackened mole smothering this turkey is made from chiles de árbol, and while the small, thin chilies have the look of something that would definitely make your nose run and your eyes water, they’re pretty mild in heat, all things considered. And it would be just as tasty over any other leftover meats you have hanging around in the fridge.
The store-bought Sriracha hot sauce you know and love is made of red jalapeños, but a mix of those and/or Fresno or Serrano chilies would work, too.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest you give Danny Bowien’s new-classic, mouth-numbing Chongqing chicken wings from Mission Chinese Food a try.
Jalapeño poppers are the appetizer you make when you don’t want your non-spicy-food-eating friends to feel left out, because there’s enough cheese and bacon mixed in here that even the spiciest jalapeño gets muted.
Thai bird’s eye chili and eight tablespoons of whole peppercorns combine to make the buttery, spicy sauce for a Thai take on the popular Singaporean dish, from Vancouver’s Maenam restaurant.
Kelis’ jerk sauce will bring all the tears to your eyes and the burn to your lips, in the best way.
On occasion, you might come across a shishito pepper that surprises you with an unexpected kick, but for the most part, these peppers are extremely mild but very flavorful, especially when roasted or blistered. If you want to make this dish a little hotter, serve it with a smoky chipotle aioli.
Pimentos, or cherry peppers, are ever so slightly higher up the Scoville scale than the shishito, so it’s a no-brainer to turn the popular southern pimento cheese dip into baked mac and cheese, a la chef Kelly Fields from New Orleans.
If you’re up for just a little more kick to your salsa, don’t bother de-stemming or seeding your Serrano peppers before pan-roasting them.
It’s not so much the fish that’s drunk in this recipe, so much as the likely eater—this spicy Chinese dish from chef Angela Dimayuga is traditionally served in bars to sober up some over-indulgent patrons.
“Toasty bits” of chile flakes and dried orange peel brighten up this condiment that you should probably keep a steady supply of in your fridge at all times. Use it on dumplings and noodles of your choice.
Use this home-made harissa as a rub on whatever protein you have lying around, or toss veggies in it before oven-roasting them.