By: Nick Callos
Remember the first time you ate truly spicy food: that first bite, the explosion of flavor, the burning sensation, and then the sweat breaking out.
After saying “Woah!”, you probably wiped your brow and reached for water or something stronger, like a beer, to quell the fire. Then the heat slowly subsided. And you smiled. That was a rush, right?
It turns out that the rush you feel is real.
As research published by the Northwestern University details, the burning sensation you get from eating spicy peppers comes from compounds called capsaicinoids. Capsaicinoids trick the brain into believing you’re being burned. As a defense, your brain releases endorphins (hooray!). And, as researchers note, this is why consuming “spicy food triggers a sense of euphoria similar to a ‘runner’s high’.”
No wonder we all like spicy food so much! That’s why, before I go to a new destination, I research where I can enjoy some spicy local cuisine.
This list highlights the best spicy dishes in the world. See what catches your eye (or taste buds). And go have yourself a hot feast.
The World’s Best Spicy Food
Dreaming of a spice-fueled adventure?
Consider traveling to sample some of the world’s best spicy food below (or at least sampling it in your hometown if you can).
Origin: Goa, India, as well as Konkan and Kerala
What is Vindaloo Pork and why is it so spicy?: Though it may not be the spiciest dish in India, vindaloo pork is extremely popular in Goan cuisine. Vindaloo pork stems from a Portuguese dish that consists of meat in garlic wine marinade. In India, dried Kashmiri chilies and additional spices have been added to give the dish added kick.
Cooking guide: Read this tutorial on how to cook vindaloo pork
Buy Kashmiri chili powder
Origin: Chongqing and Sichuan Province, China
What is Sichuan hotpot and why is it so spicy?: An ultimate party dish, Sichuan hotpot consists of a simmering pot of soup stock. The broth is flavored with numbingly spicy ingredients, notably Sichuan pepper (hua jiao 花椒). You can cook basically anything in the hotpot, from bean sprouts and spinach to beef belly and quail eggs. Yummy!
Cooking guide: Read this guide on how to make Sichuan hotpot
Related: Check out our history of mapo tofu, plus delicious recipes!
Buy Sichuan peppers
Origin: Ethiopia and Eritrea
What is Doro Wat and why is it so spicy?: A spicy stew prepared with chicken, beef, or lamb, along with a variety of vegetables, doro wat brings the heat with berbere. Berbere is a spice blend that includes ground chili peppers, garlic, basil, ginger, and other spices and herbs. Berbere gives doro wat a fiery taste that you won’t forget. No wonder it’s one of the best spicy foods in the world!
Cooking guide: Read this guide on how to cook doro wat
Suicide Chicken Wings
Origin: USA (you could trace it back to Buffalo, New York)
What are Suicide Chicken Wings and why are they so spicy?: Like the name suggests, suicide chicken wings are meant to be frighteningly spicy. Sound the alarm bells! Many restaurants and bars in America and elsewhere have a different take, but essentially recipes include the hottest of ingredients. That means a mix of cayenne, paprika, habanero, jalapeño, and/or even ghost peppers. If you want to challenge yourself by eating the spiciest peppers in the world, order up suicide chicken wings.
Cooking guide: Check out this suicide chicken wings recipe
Buy ghost chili peppers
Papa a la Huancaína
Origin: Lima, Peru
What is Papa a la Huancaína and why is it so spicy?: A favorite among spicy food lovers in Peru, papa a la huancaína is an appetizer of boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce (called huancaina sauce). It doesn’t have the blazing red look, but don’t be fooled. Amarillo chili peppers are mixed in the sauce, giving the dish some serious kick. Get your spice on!
Cooking guide: Learn how to cook papa a la huancaína here
Buy Amarillo chili powder
Origin: Central Thailand
What is Tom Yum and why is it so spicy?: Tom yum is a hot and sour soup that usually includes shrimp. It’s popular in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and other areas of Southeast Asia. In addition to tasty ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and fish sauce, many versions of tom yum bring the heat with copious amounts of Thai chilies (aka bird’s eye peppers). Talk about spice!
Cooking guide: Read this awesome tom yum soup recipe
Buy fresh Thai chilies
What is Kimchi Jjigae and why is it so spicy?: If you want to enjoy the best spicy food in Korea, put kimchi jjigae at the top of your list. This Korean stew consists of diced tofu, garlic, mushrooms, scallions, and onions. Pork and/or seafood is the preferred protein for this dish. To make the food super spicy, cooks add a whole lot of red chilies and let the stew simmer for quite some time!
Cooking guide: This article on how to make kimchi jjigae is great
What is Pork Griot and why is it so spicy?: When it comes to food in Haiti, few dishes are more popular. Pork griot features chunks of pork shoulder flavored with citrus and Scotch bonnet chiles, which have a heat ranging from 100,000 – 350,000. That’s 12-140 times hotter than a jalapeño. Wow!
Cooking guide: Follow this Haitian pork griot recipe
Buy Scotch bonnet pepper sauce
Enjoy the Best Spicy Food in the World
Ready to set your tongue aflame? Hopefully, our list of the best spicy dishes has inspired you to travel in search of tasty fire! After all, you know the best food bursts with flavor and heat.
About the Author
Nick Callos has always had a passion for reading, writing, and discovering the new and unknown. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Nick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Boston College. He currently splits his time between his hometown, Chengdu, China, and the open road. A full-time travel writer, Nick hopes his work can inspire others to explore the world more deeply and enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle.
Featured image via Unsplash.