As this year’s hottest food trend, spicy food is changing up menus all across the globe. While chefs come up with new, fiery takes on pantry staples, some of the world’s spiciest cuisines have been here since ancient times.
Whether you’re looking to spice things up a notch, or you’re ready to decimate your tastebuds, join us as we explore the world’s top 5 hottest cuisines.
1. Ethiopian cuisine
Spice level: fiery
With its sumptuous stews and rich curries, Ethiopian cuisine is one of the most exciting in the world. Centred around large communal plates that are shared with friends and family, the number one staple is injera, a giant savoury pancake, used both as a plate and for scooping up the delectable bits and pieces from the platter.
Even the tiniest taste of Japanese condiments can make your temperature skyrocket.
Even though Ethiopian food is more well-seasoned than super hot, spicy food enthusiasts still have plenty to enjoy. Berbere, the popular chocolate-coloured spice mixture, packs a punch to any dish it’s added to, from the misir wat lentil stew to the minced beef kitfo with dried berbere at Fenan Klein Afrika in Amsterdam.
2. Japanese cuisine
Spice level: seriously blazing
Japanese food can seem unassuming at first; but the local chefs don’t skimp on the spice. Starting with wasabi, right through to the kurashi mustard and koregusu sauce, even the tiniest taste of these Japanese condiments is enough to feel your temperature skyrocket.
Test your endurance with a piping bowl of spicy miso ramen, or fire up your kamaboko fish cakes with a generous drizzle of red chilli oil—one of the most delicious (and hottest) Chinese imports. Or, if you dare, dive into the tantan ramen at Betsubara in Amsterdam; guaranteed to set your mouth ablaze.
3. Indian cuisine
Spice level: fire alert
Boasting a colourful array of chilli peppers, Indian cuisine is heaven for lovers of spicy food . Forget your usual tikka masala, because the endless variety of dishes contains the whole heat spectrum. Start off with the peppery Punjabi stews then level up to the laal maas curry with red Mathania chilli. Think you can handle the heat? Order the spice delight curry at Sugar and Spice in Haarlem, and don’t forget to throw in a cold mango lassi to quell any spice emergencies.
Indian cuisine is heaven for all heat lovers.
4. Mexican cuisine
Spice level: scorchingly hot
Just as authentic Mexican cuisine goes way beyond tacos and salsa, it does the same for its hot foods, offering much more than the jalapeño. Mexican heat comes in all forms, from pickled chillis to pequin, every abuela’s favourite ingredient to cook with. There’s also a wide array of spicy salsas, fresh or bottled, but most importantly super hot; especially salsa verde, which can definitely turn things up a notch. Drizzle it over the confit brisket at Ruisenor Taqueria in The Hague, and top it up with a sprinkle of dried habanero chiles. That is, if you can make it past the flaming heat, of course.
5. Thai cuisine
Spice level: meltdown
Famed for its fiery stir fries and tangy soups, spice runs deep in Thai food culture. Enter phrik khi nu, Thailand’s favourite pepper, one of the five core chillis of this Southeast Asian cuisine. You’re probably familiar with this pepper in the blazing red curry from central Thailand. Feeling ready to step up your spice game? Meet its smaller (but mightier) sibling, the phrik khi nu suan chilli; a single speckle is enough to give you a serious hit. For the ultimate fiery challenge, sprinkle it over the phad krapauw at Yam Thai in Rotterdam. But remember, you’ve been warned.
Mexican heat comes in all shapes and sizes, from pickled chillis to the pequin pepper.