For some of you, it’s not a matter of whether you can handle the heat. You love the heat. You look for it on every menu — and maybe love it so much that you're willing to travel thousands of miles for your next fix. On that note, we’ve got you covered. Here are 11 countries to visit if you love spicy food — and what to order when you get there.
You’ll notice that many countries that love spicy food have warmer climates. According to research done by Cornell University, one reason for this is that spicy food helps fight off food-spoilage microorganisms and food-borne bacteria. In warmer climates, especially before refrigeration, food-borne bacteria were far more likely to thrive than in cooler climates. Another reason: counterintuitively, eating spicy foods cools your body down, or at least makes it feel cooler; spice induces sweating, and as the sweat evaporates, your skin cools. It doesn’t hurt that chiles are an endorphin-boosting aphrodisiac, either.
To find the countries on this list, we consulted our previous list of the world’s spiciest dishes that are worth the heartburn, and found other international dishes in which chiles appear prominently. We also relied on our tongues, as many of us at The Daily Meal office like our spices dialed up — we’ve even figured out which hot sauces match our astrological signs. We thought of some of the spiciest foods we have eaten, which cuisines they came from, and followed the trail to the other spicy specialties of those cuisines.
An honorary spicy dish that we considered putting on this list is a curry called phall, which is hotter than vindaloo — it includes spices from habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers as well as standard red chiles. Phall has an interesting origin: It was invented in Birmingham, England, to test which patrons at Indian restaurants could handle an extreme intensity of spice. While there are plenty of curry houses in the United Kingdom, there are far spicier countries to visit in the world.
Make sure to get your tongue ready for the dishes you’ll encounter in these fantastic travel destinations.
The food in Bhutan, a small kingdom bordered by India and Tibet, is so spicy that the national dish, ema datshi, consists solely of chiles and cheese; it is usually served with rice. According to the BBC, chiles in Bhutan are considered vegetables, rather than flavor enhancers. A good place to try the hot, spicy, and cheesy ema datshi is Plums Café in Thimphu.
Spicy food is not ubiquitously beloved across the vast regions of China, but in the provinces of Hunan, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces, you’d better be prepared for some of the fieriest foods in the world. Steel yourself for steamed fish heads covered in a blanket of diced chile peppers, scallions, and garlic, or Sichuan huo guo, a tongue-numbing variation of hot pot in which Sichuan chiles, also known as “flower peppers” or “prickly ash,” fare prominently. If you want a preview in the United States, head to Han Dynasty in New York City and order their dandan noodles.