The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.

By Leigh O’Connor. 

Most people know chilli peppers are one of the hottest foods on the planet – but did you know that the hottest chilli pepper in the world is always changing?

These spicy little morsels are constantly evolving, with the Carolina Reaper recently named the hottest with a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 2,200,000 – that’s 200 times hotter than a jalapeno! Can you imagine popping this into your mouth?

As we celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16, here are some fun ways to mark the occasion and restaurants to heat things up with a meal out:

Try a spicy dish you have never eaten before.

Dine at a Thai, Korean or Indian restaurant, where they service spicy food.

Learn about the different kinds of chilli peppers.

Make a recipe with a spice you’ve never used before. 

Host a chilli cook-off with friends and family.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Sizzling, spicy pork sisag at Chibog.

While adobo is usually the main offering at Filipino restaurants, Chibog on Barkley Street in West Footscray serves up pork sisig as a sizzling, spicy temptation for those who like it hot. Boasting a sleek, neon-lit space with leather banquettes and an industrial mix of concrete steel and dark timber, this trendy venue delivers on all fronts.

Take a seat beneath the mural of an iconic Filipino jeepney with an icy brew in hand and kickstart your adventure into the world of spice with Chibokbok – sweet and spicy crispy wingettes – before delving into a main such as Kansi, osso bucco in tamarind broth, with young jackfruit and chilli. You might want to cool things down with a dessert of crispy leche flan and ice cream!

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.

Izakaya Midori’s karaage with spicy lime teriyaki sauce. 

Looking for plant-based Japanese fare on the Gold Coast? Head to Izakaya Midori on Woodland Drive at Reedy Creek and say arigatou to vegan versions of everything from spicy ramen to katsu, karaage and gyoza in warm and welcoming surrounds. Chill out with an icy drink and check out the eatery’s motto of ‘be a game changer’ in artwork on the walls, while splashes of greenery add a zen-like touch.

Light the spice fire with a starter of deep-fried prawn roll, katsu sauce and wasabi tartar; then dip a spoon into a bowl of rich spicy aka ramen – miso butter noodle soup, topped with corn, flavoured bamboo shoots and smoked vacon. Finish with karaage, spicy lime teriyaki sauce, salad and garlic dressing.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Street food at Yaring Thai in Mitcham.
Street fare with flair and promise of a spicy kick await Mitcham diners at Yaring Thai Street Food on Mitcham Road. Named for the hometown of owner Anna, Yaring delivers authentic flavours and recipes in light and bright surrounds, dominated by a wall mural depicting life on the streets of southern Thailand.

Take flight with a bowl of traditional hot and sour Tom Yum soup, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, coriander, King oyster mushrooms, tomato and baby corn; while meat lovers salivate over Crying Tiger barbequed Scotch fillet, mixed salad and spicy Isaan nahm jim sauce.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Must try fish moilee curry at Chapati.

India is the land of spice and that’s what is on the plate at Chapati on Rathdowne Street in Carlton, where the culture and cuisine of the Sub-continent is dished up to Melbourne foodies. This newly-opened restaurant is a visual delicacy with vibrant wall murals, an aqua colour scheme and softly glowing pendents, creating a moody ambience for embarking on a flavoursome culinary journey.

Say namaste to a spicy treat from North-eastern India with momo steamed dumplings, stuffed with spiced chicken and served with chutney, to start. A must-try main is fish moilee – creamy coconut-based fish stew, rich in spices and flavour, served with an international touch and best paired with saffron rice and wholemeal tandoori roti.

Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made from crusty bread rolls, smeared with pate, mayo, Asian ham, pickled vegetables, green onion, coriander, a mighty wack of fresh chilli and drizzle of dressing – just the thing to satisfy spice cravings at Hoi An Old City on Sydney Road in Coburg. 

Inspired by the ancient city of the same name in Vietnam, this rustic restaurant delivers a taste of culture and street food to Melburnians, from surrounds of exposed brick, window shutters and distressed timber, blending seamlessly with hanging lanterns and original accents. You can’t leave without ordering the Hainanese chicken rice and secret sauce.

Follow the aroma of tantalising spices to Chiluka’s Indian Bistro on Scarborough Street in Southport to indulge the senses with mesmerising delicacies. This new kid on the spice block is the brainchild of Sridhar Chiluka, who spent several years working in Dubai at Le Meridien and now calls the Gold Coast home, in light and airy surrounds in the CBD.

From breakfast to dinner, Chiluka’s delivers all your favourites from hot and spicy lamb vindaloo to Goan fish curry and Filipino-style chicken adobo stew; add coconut rice, papadums, cheese and garlic naan and the whole family’s chilli hit is taken care of.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Berempah lamb curry.

Delve into a mouth-watering array of dishes taking hints from Malaysian street hawker cuisine, full of fragrant herbs and aromatic spices, at Berempah on Willoughby Road in Willoughby. An exotic culinary adventure awaits all who dine at this ambient restaurant, where an elongated dining room is warmed by soft lighting, while the walls are adorned with timber wine racks and black and white photos.

Curries like Kapitan chicken and prawn sambal will appease those looking for a chilli hit, while traditional chicken laksa, with hokkien noodles, spicy coconut sauce, tofu, choysum, bean sprouts and fish cakes, is a firm local favourite. Cool things down with a dessert of housemade coconut ice cream and sauce.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Traditional dishes await at Jai Ho Indian in Hoppers Crossing.

Traditional recipes passed down through generations to create some of the best Indian cuisine in Melbourne is on the plate at Jai Ho Indian on Old Geelong Road in Hoppers Crossing. Embrace the restaurant’s motto of ‘victory shall be yours’ as you step into a moody vibe of embossed wallpaper, dark wood, Indian accents and softly glowing lights, to dine at white-clothed tables.

From a menu committed to the freshest produce, set out on a spice hike with crispy chilli potato, tossed in sesame seeds and honey, finished with fresh coriander; before Chef’s signature dishes of Punjabi goat curry, cooked on the bone with special herbs and spices, aromatic basmati rice, chilli and garlic naan.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Eggplant curry…just one of the plant-based dishes at Café Ophelia. 
Think outside the box and enjoy sustainable, vegetarian dining with a kick at Café Ophelia on Harbour Drive in Coffs Harbour. Nestled inside Coffs City Square, this stylish eatery embraces pink tiled counters and blond wood furniture to create a chilled-out vibe in keeping with the coastal lifestyle.

Sit kerbside and people watch while checking out a menu of local produce, transformed into tempting dishes like fresh and fragrant eggplant curry, char-grilled with curried zucchini and crispy mushrooms; or Szechuan-style noodles, toasted pepitas, nori, crispy kale, herbs, mango and chilli salad.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Currilicious dinners at Spice on Charles.
Currilicious dinners are what you can expect at Spice on Charles in Launceston. This casually elegant Indian restaurant boasts walls the colour of spice, rustic exposed brick, polished dark wood tables and subtle downlighting, setting the scene for a tantalising journey through a menu bursting with spices, herbs and flavours.

Marinated fish with Chettinad spices makes for an ideal starter, before delving into spicy Madras chicken, cooked in an onion base, coconut oil, mustard, cumin and curry leaves; those who like it hotter may opt for marinated diced lamb, onion, ground spices, pepper and curry leaves, paired with saffron rice, raita and tandoori roti.

Outstanding Indonesian fare created with love is what Yuni’s Kitchen on High Street serves up to Northcote diners. Nestled in an historic building, this fun and funky restaurant is a hidden gem, where guests gather in vibrant décor of red and teal walls, Balinese statues and recycled wooden furniture.

The Heat is On – Celebrate International Hot and Spicy Day on Saturday, January 16.
 Fish in banana leaves…a specialty at Yuni’s Kitchen.
Want it hot? Just ask and your wish will be granted with options like Ikan pepes – fish in banana leaves with all the banging flavours of chilli, lemongrass, galangal, Thai basil, tomato and Asian bay leaves; or slow-cooked beef rendang curry, served with salad and a potato cake. Shaved ice, corn, red bean, jelly and flavours is the perfect dessert to reset the spice thermometer.