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Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney

By Marie-Antoinette Issa.

From sizzling Szechuan hotpot to mouth-numbing Mexican tacos, spicy food holds a special place in the hearts (even if occasionally leading to literal heartburn) of adventurous eaters. 

Around the world, dishes packed with heat not only tantalise the taste buds of travellers but also offer a unique culinary insight into the local traditions of a country.

Here’s a wrap-up of some of the spiciest dishes across cultures and cuisines, where to find the best versions right here in Sydney and tips on how to enjoy them, when it all gets a little too hot to handle! 

Calling all spice girls and guys! The hottest dishes around the globe:
Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney
Spice transcends geographical borders. With almost every country in the world offering a dish that brings the fire to food.
In Asia, Szechuan (also spelt Sichuan - a province located in the southwestern part of China) is renowned for locals with peppery palates and, dishes that spotlight bold flavours and liberal use of chilli peppers to satisfy them.

One of the most popular meals to emerge from this region is the region’s signature Sichuan Hot Pot. Featuring ingredients like beef, tofu and vegetables in a simmering broth filled with a potent blend of chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorn and various aromatics, this dish is not for the faint of heart - but will definitely deliver a flavourful punch for those craving a sizzling dinner session. 
Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney

Thai food is also celebrated for its perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours - one dish that excellently exemplifies this is Tom Yum Soup. Generally filled with fragrant herbs, succulent seafood and a generous amount of bird's eye chillies, this soup delivers a fiery kick that lingers on the palate. Similarly, Thai green, red and yellow curries are other spicy favourites -  showcasing vibrant sauces (of various degrees of intensity) made with coloured chillies, lemongrass and galangal. 

The spicy cuisine of India boasts some of the hottest dishes in the world. Alongside classics like Korma and Vindaloo, Rogan Josh is a popular curry originating from the beautiful region of Kashmir in the northern part of India.

Made with a blend of herbs and sharp spices - including bay leaves, cloves, ginger, garlic and Kashmiri red chilli powder (which gives it its signature red hue) - the ‘Josh’ in the name of this dish is derived from a Persian word that means heat or passion, reflecting the rich and flavourful nature of the dish. 

Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney
While American fare is typically associated with super-sized servings and sweet treats, Nashville Hot Chicken is a Southern specialty that showcases their spice for life. Featuring fried chicken coated in an exotic blend of spices - including cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic powder - it’s typically served with pickles and white bread to balance out the heat.

Further south, although spicy salsas and chilli-rimmed Margaritas are a staple on any good Mexican menu, nothing captures the essence of this cuisine quite like Tacos de Birria. Tender, stewed meat (usually beef or goat) is served in a bold broth, then folded into corn tortillas and fried until crispy, before being served with a side of consome for dipping and to add an extra kick of flavour.

Finally, across the Caribbean, Jerk Chicken (particularly popular in Jamaica) showcases the versatility of spice, by seasoning poultry with a blend of chillies - including Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice and thyme - before grilling or smoking them to perfection.
Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney

Sydney’s spiciest dishes:
Given the Harbour City’s status as a multicultural melting pot, it is unsurprising that hungry diners will find authentic versions of almost all of the above at a local eatery.
For example, at Legend Hot Pot Buffet in Burwood, adventurous eaters plunge into the depths of spice with their Szechuan Hot Pot. Infused with the numbing heat of Szechuan peppercorns and the intense flavours of chilli peppers, this bubbling cauldron of broth will transport you straight to the street markets of China.

Meanwhile, Pinky Ji, proudly serves up ‘unauthentic Australian Indian’ that may be light on tradition, but certainly not taste. Here, the best way to indulge in the spicy lamb Rogan Josh, is with a side of Laccha Paratha (with curry butter and coconut sambal) to settle the scorch.

Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney
For lovers of classic Thai cuisine seeking a spicy kick, cult Thai Pothong in quirky Newtown offers a menu of zingy, zesty curries from across Thailand - including Penang, Massaman and a Jungle Curry with a top-tier chilli rating.

Super Nash Brothers (located in Waitara, Willoughby and Waterloo, as well as Auburn in Western Sydney) may be a world away from America’s deep south, but its Nashville Hot Chicken would have you otherwise convinced.

Inspired by the iconic dish from Tennessee, this fiery fried bird is doused in a cayenne pepper-infused oil, delivering a piquant punch that leaves lips tingling and taste buds singing.
Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney

Meanwhile, at Smoking Gringos in Blacktown, a highlight of the signature Tacos de Birria is the rich and spicy broth in which the beef is simmered. Finally, for those craving a taste of the Caribbean, Jamaica Vibes Food Hut in suburban Castle Hill serves up a mouthwatering Jerk Chicken that's best enjoyed with a side of rice, peas and rum sauce chocolate cake.

How to (slowly!) spice up your life:
For those new to spicy cuisine or looking to up their spice tolerance, several strategies can help make it easier to tolerate. Begin by incorporating milder spicy meals into your diet and gradually increase the heat level over time.

Some Like it Hot! The Spiciest Dishes around the World and Where to Find Them in Sydney
This gradual approach allows your taste buds to acclimate to the intensity of fiery foods. Regular consumption of chilli foods can help build your tolerance over time. Experiment with different levels of heat and gradually challenge yourself with spicier dishes as your tolerance increases.

Finally, don't forget a cooling drink. While water may provide temporary relief from the heat, it's actually best to reach for a dairy-based beverage like milk or yoghurt to quell the fire. The casein protein in dairy products helps break down the compound responsible for the burning sensation in chilli peppers.
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