Spicy food is the sort of thing that sits on the line between pleasure and pain. Sure, it hurts to eat it, but all that pain triggers your brain to release endorphins, giving you a little bit of a pleasure boost from eating it. Plus, spicy food is often flavorful, incorporating not only hot chilis but also other great ingredients like ginger, garlic, and even things like tamarind. Spicy food really is the kind of thing that most people get into for two reasons. The first is that they like the flavor. Hot wings, hot curry, hot chicken, all of it just sets something off in them, and even though it brings them great pain, they keep eating it. The second is the challenge. Spicy food fans love to show off. The more chili peppers beside an item on the menu, the more likely they are to order it.
Are all the spicy food challenges worth it, though? Some of them might be, but others will just deliver far too much pain to be truly enjoyed. There are dishes that are so hot that even the restaurant will tell you that it doesn't really taste good. Still, the most adventurous eaters will go for them, wishing to prove something to everyone at their table. Often these dishes cause the eater to get very flushed, sweaty, and desperate for anything to take the edge off. It's a pretty funny show for everyone who does;t have to take part in it, but for the person who is right in the thick of it, it can be the most grueling experience of their lives. These are 20 spicy dishes and challenges ranked from the mildest to the absolute hottest. Make sure you have a glass of milk handy for this one.
20 Waterfall Pork - Thai-Kun
The Waterfall Pork at popular Austin eatery Thai-Kun is the kind of thing that anyone who likes spicy food should try. The combination of flavors, along with the heavy-handed spice, give this pork a challenging, but not inedible amount of heat. It's the kind of dish that someone could order without signing a waiver, which is more than we can say for some of the dishes on this list. The name is totally accurate, though, as the dish is hot enough that it may make you shed some tears while eating it. However, you won't really know if they are tears of pain or tears of joy. That's how good this pork is.
19 Dan Dan Noodles - Han Dynasty
Dan Dan noodles are traditionally served pretty spicy, but at Han Dynasty, diners are allowed to request an even hotter version of the noodle dish. These noodles are marked as an "8" on the restaurant's menu, indicating that they are already pretty spicy, but they will gladly add more spice if requested (they will also use less if requested, which seems like a nice thing to do for those who can't handle a lot of heat). Like the Waterfall Pork, this might be challenging to some, but it is not so over the top that you couldn't enjoy it with a regular meal.
18 Popcorn Chicken - Hot Spicy Spicy
Popcorn chicken may seem like a safe choice at most restaurants. After all, it's just chunks of breaded chicken that are sometimes served with a dipping sauce, but the good folks at Hot Spicy Spicy in Toronto wanted to take their popcorn chicken to the next level (it's right there in the name of the restaurant). The popcorn chicken at this eatery comes out bathed in chili sauce and is actually marked on the menu as "popcorn chicken with lots of chilies." So at least you know what you're getting into if you order these little morsels of heat and flavor.
17 Ghost Pepper Wings - Hot Sauce and Panko
To real spice fans, the ghost pepper has become child's play. After all, the Carolina Reaper recently overtook it as one of the hottest peppers in the world, and there are still others that are hotter than that. However, don't be fooled by the sliding scale of heat. Ghost peppers are still very spicy, and will definitely ruin your day if you're not used to them. That's what makes the ghost pepper wings at Hot Sauce and Panko in San Francisco so special. They are hand sauced when you order them, and they are no laughing matter. For the inexperienced, these wings would be too much, but for those who can handle the heat, they might be just right.
16 Double X Hot Chicken - Pepperfire
Nashville hot chicken is a staple of the region. Chicken is fried in the traditional southern style, but it is then tossed in a spicy coating made using fat (usually lard) and a blend of spices with cayenne being the primary ingredient. The Nashville restaurant Pepperfire offers a pretty hot version of the dish with their double X level of hot chicken. This is the highest they will go in adding spice to the chicken, as any more would probably be way too much. The flavor is great, and there's nothing quite as good as fried chicken, but it's the immense heat that will leave you panting that really makes this hot chicken something to try only once.
15 Great Balls of Fire Fritters - Salvador Molly's
When it comes to these innocent looking fritters, the name says it all. These cheese and habanero fritters are deceptively hot on their own, but they are also served in a pool of hot sauce. The restaurant offers a place on their wall of fame if you can manage to eat all five with every last bit of the sauce as well. It may sound easy, but even those who consider themselves spicy food fans have had trouble finishing the whole platter. While they may not appear as spicy as other dishes on this list, people should be prepared for a big punch of heat after taking even just one bite of these fritters.
14 Brined and Smoked Jerk Chicken Wings - East Coast Grill
Every week, the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts (now closed down permanently) would hold a special night where they would serve exclusively hot and spicy food on their menu. That included the addition of their brined, smoked, and grilled jerk wings. These wings were reportedly so hot that they could give even the bravest pepperhead pause while eating them. It would have been hard to finish a plate of these wings, which, while having a lot of great flavor from the jerk seasoning, also delivered a wild amount of heat thanks to the addition of scotch bonnet peppers, one of the hottest peppers in the world native to the Caribbean.
13 Triple X Hot wings - Jake Melnick's Corner Tap
Jake Melnick's Corner Tap in Chicago, Illinois is the kind of place where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy a baseball game on the TV. However, it's also a place where you can get some of the hottest hot wings in the world. How hot could they be? Well, the restaurant doesn;t stop at using habaneros (which are pretty mild by comparison to what's about to come), ghost peppers (which are pretty popular in spicy food, due to their potency), and as a final blow to your taste buds, the scorpion pepper, which is twice as hot as the ghost pepper. If you could actually take down an entire pound of these wings, then you would be among a very small group of people.
12 Special #2 Spicy Ramen Challenge - Orochon
Ramen has always been a staple of the college dorm, but we're not here to talk about those noodle bricks that come in a bag and cost 79 cents. We're here to talk about actual, authentic ramen, like the kind served at Orochon in Los Angeles. Specifically, we want to talk about the Special #2 Spicy Ramen Challenge. This bowl of ramen is made with the highest amount of spice that the restaurant will add. You get your choice of broth, which is then spiced to oblivion. The challenge asks participants to finish the bowl of ramen in 30 minutes or less. People who have taken the challenge say the hardest part is finishing the broth, which burns all the way down.
11 Chicken Vindaloo Roti (Extra Hot) - Gandhi Cuisine
When most people think of vindaloo, they think of a bowl of curry served with a side of rice. However, at Gandhi Cuisine in Toronto, you can get your vindaloo wrapped up in a roti. You can also order it extra hot, which spicy food fans recommend. Be warned, however, if you ask for extra heat, the good people at Gandhi will take this as a challenge. If you're not the kind of person who can handle really spicy food, this may knock you onto the floor. If you can handle spicy food, it still might make you stagger a little bit. It is, however, very delicious.
10 Spicy Tuna Roll Challenge - Bushido
The spicy tuna roll is probably one of the most popular sushi rolls in North America. It's straightforward, delicious, and packs a nice bit of heat that is usually balanced out by the cool temperature of the fish and other ingredients. However, at Bushido in Charleston, North Carolina, the spicy sushi roll becomes more than just a standard sushi roll: it becomes a challenge. Their spicy tuna hand rolls are made with a fiery habanero base. Competitors are served 10 rolls, each one hotter than the last. They have to be eaten in one sitting in ascending order, and it may just be one of the most punishing sushi experiences in the world.
9 Murg Vindaloo - Mint Leaf India Brasserie
This curry, served at Mint Leaf India Brasserie in Miami, Florida, might just be one of the hottest curries available. Vindaloo is already the highest level of curry (at least for most places, more on that later). However, the murg vindaloo at Mint Leaf goes even further with its heat level. The dish utilizes Kashmiri chilis and a vinegar based marinade for the meat, making this dish not only spicy but also acidic. The blend of authentic ingredients and preparation style make this dish (which is also the most expensive one on the menu) worth trying as long as you're ready for a walloping amount of heat.
8 The 4 Horsemen Challenge - Chunky's Burgers & More
Don't worry, burger lovers. There's a spicy food challenge for you, too. Dubbed the 4 Horsemen burger, this food challenge at Chunky's Burgers & More would definitely test the resolve of anyone who thinks they can handle the heat. According to the restaurant's website, this burger is topped with "fresh Jalapeno and Serrano peppers, a Habanero sauce, and the dreaded Ghost(Jolokia) pepper." All those peppers, not to mention the habanero sauce would definitely make for one spicy burger. The other characteristic making this burger a challenge is that because the peppers are fresh. That means all of that good, burning capsaicin is still inside of the pepper. There would be no escaping it, and the heat would just build with every painful (but probably delicious) bite.
7 Inferno Pizza Challenge - Pazza Bistro
Everybody loves pizza (even the people who say they don't), but there's no way even the most ardent pizza lovers would have wanted to finish this blazingly hot pie from Pazza Bistro in Pinellas Park, Florida. The restaurant has unfortunately closed down, but this pizza definitely would have given pepperheads a run for their money. If anyone ever wanted to recreate this pizza, it was topped with chopped jalapeno and habanero peppers, and the sauce was made with habanero extract, jalapeno and ghost peppers. After it was cooked, the pizza was then garnished with additional ghost chilis. Maybe it's a good thing no one will be able to eat this thing anymore.
6 Armageddon Wings - Duff's Famous Wings
At Duff's Famous Wings in Toronto, you can get a sauce on your wings that is simply referred to as "Armageddon." These wings are not for the faint of heart, as the name suggests. Not only do they contain a lot of heat from the habanero base, but they are also vinegary. The acidity from the vinegar just enhances the spice and causes even more pain. These are the kinds of wings where if you take a breath holding them to close to your face, you are going to feel like you got pepper-sprayed. Finishing an entire order of these wings would be a test of will unto itself. Make sure to have some blue cheese dressing handy.
5 Inferno Soup - Nitally's
When it's cold out or you're not feeling well, there's nothing quite as satisfying as a hot bowl of soup. What about a bowl of hot soup though? That might sound tasty to some people, but they've probably never tried the inferno soup Nitally's in St. Petersburg, Florida. If they have, then even the thought of spicy soup probably gives them troubling flashbacks. This insanely hot noodle soup is made with a broth that incorporates 13 peppers, including the ghost pepper. The soup is so invasively spicy that it must be prepared and eaten outside. There is a wall of shame with hundreds of people who have tried to finish the soup in under 30 minutes and failed. That would definitely clear out your sinuses.
4 Hot Chicken (Any Amount of Heat) - Bolton's
If you think any other hot chicken in Nashville is as hot as it is at Bolton's, then you are dreaming. Even the mild usually has people sweating. The good folks at Bolton's do not mess around with their hot chicken, so any level of heat is enough to take down the average person. However, ask for it with the maximum amount of spice, and you may find yourself in a state of pure pain and panic. Even David Chang, host of Netflix's Ugly Delicious and chef at Momofuku couldn't handle it. On the show, he recounted his experience with Bolton's hottest chicken in graphic detail, sharing how badly it hurt him and what kind of mental and physical torment it put him through.
3 Dynamite Spicy Challenge - Jitlada
This challenging dish from Jitlada in Los Angeles is the kind of thing that has become renowned for its heat level. It's the sort of curry that is so spicy people make Youtube videos about trying to finish it. That's how hot this dish is. The dish uses a secret blend of all kinds of different chilis to give it a heat that starts building slowly but quickly takes over your entire mouth. The spice then becomes your life, and nothing will put out the fire. The flavors may be great, but they are buried under a heat so painful, that there are very few people out there who can finish it.
2 The Initiation - Wingsters
Wingsters in Dubai is not messing around when they tell you that their dish of hot wings called "The Initiation" is hot. The wings are coated in the hottest sauce the restaurant offers, but it's not the sauce that will get participants in this contest of wills: it's the rules. Anyone who takes this challenge must adhere to a set of rules made to make this challenge as painful as possible. They include not having any liquid, not being able to wipe your hands or mouth, and enduring a five minute "afterburn period" where you must sit and let the burning take hold of you. This is not for everyone. Even the bravest spice fans would struggle with the Initiation.
1 Phaal Curry - Brick Lane Curry House
You may have seen Adam Richman take on this dish on an episode of Man Vs. Food, but we think it's important for everyone to know just how bonkers hot this dish is. The Phaal Curry at Brick Lane Curry House in New York is so spicy that the chefs need to wear ventilators while they cook it. Otherwise, they could easily have a severe choking fit from all the spice. The dish is made with a blend of at least 10 to 12 different chili peppers, and the dish is described on the restaurant's website as "an excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor." Do not eat this unless you are looking for a challenge or you feel you need to punish yourself for something.