Asia has some of the hottest dishes in the world. Source: James Sutton/Unsplash
EVERYONE has a different tolerance to spicy food. Some people can only take a sprinkling of white pepper while others smear heaps of wasabi onto their sushi.
But for those who live in Asia, spicy food is part of their everyday life as most of the world’s hottest dishes come from this continent.
It almost seems paradoxical that those who live in some of the warmest countries on Earth enjoy food that makes them sweat even more.
There’s even an academic paper on why people living in hot countries enjoy hot food.
In a study called Temperature, the researchers aimed to answer “Why do people living in hot climates like their food spicy?”
They conclude that originally, spices were used for their antibacterial properties that rid foods of pathogens and make people healthier.
But in the age of refrigeration and health standards, is this still necessary?
The paper concluded that even though we live in a globalized world, people are still hesitant to try new foods and tend to stick to the dishes their respective countries have been serving for centuries.
And in the case of many Asian nations, this means dishes are heaped with chilies.
Beyond spicy foods being ingrained in cultural roots, hot dishes have a plethora of health benefits.
For example, scientists discovered capsaicin, the spicy chemical in peppers, helped reduce the size of tumors by activating cell receptors.
Spice can also increase libido and enhance weight loss. A magic food some might say.
But spice doesn’t have to mean enduring an unbearable meal, as Asia wonderfully illustrates.
These are some of the hottest dishes to grace Asia’s tables but can also still be enjoyed without causing third-degree burns to your mouth.
Lo Bok with Sichuan Peppercorns, China Lo Bok is a large radish which on its own provides a mild and sweet flavor. However, when it’s combined with notoriously firey Sichuan peppercorns, the dish presents a mouth-numbing flavor.
Sichuan peppercorns mixed with anything will numb your tongue but chefs believe this gives the diner the advantage of eating more.
Spice level: Eat with caution.
Laal Maas, India Laal Maas translates to “red mutton.” This dish originated in royal households in Rajasthan where it was served with game meat.
The dousing of Mathania chilies was used to cover the gamey smell. But years later and a change of meat, the same amount of chilies and garlic are still used in the dish.
Spice level: Bring a carton of milk.
Vindaloo, India Vindaloo curry has a fierce reputation around the world but many Indians claim it’s more of a Portuguese dish.
While it may be known as a spicy dish, commonly found in Goa, the meal gets its name from the Portuguese carne de vinha d’alhos, meaning “meat in garlic wine marinade.”
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Spice level: It will make you sweat.
Ambul Thiyal, Sri Lanka This clay pot sour fish curry has become a staple Sri Lankan dish and remained popular through the centuries because it stays fresh for up to a week after cooking.
There are a whole lot of spices that go into this fishy feast, but the ones that give it a kick are cumin, chili powder, chili flakes, ginger, and pepper.
Spice level: You might notice a slight tongue tingle.
Hell’s Ramen, Japan Japanese food isn’t usually associated with fiery flavors, but Hiyashi miso ramen from Mouko Tanmen Nakatomo ramen shop in Tokyo changes that.
The chili-filled cold soup is served with soba noodles that the diner dips in. While you can choose how much sauce to soak up, each mouthful will be hotter than the last.
Spice level: Eat with caution.
Onnuriye Donkatsu, South Korea Korea has its share of spicy food, from kimchi to buldak. But none of them live up to the “Donkatsu of Death” found at Onnuriye Donkatsu restaurant in Seoul.
This usually mildly deep-fried pork cutlet is lathered with a red chili sauce and then sprinkled with green chilis for the hell of it.
Spice level: Cry for your mummy.
Otak-otak Otak-otak is a mixture of ground fish meat and tapioca, typically found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
While many Asian would argue it’s not spicy, the combination of chili, turmeric and curry powder give it an eye-watering kick.
Spice level: A passing moment of spiciness.
So there you have it, a selection of Asia’s spiciest food, all of which you can still enjoy if you don’t mind swigging milk in between bites.
Holly Patrick | @HollyMaeVogel
As a recent graduate of Journalism from Westminster University, Holly is keen on exploring the stories that hide in the most curious of places. She enjoys discovering new cultures, and has strong opinions about women's rights and how modern technology is influencing the globalized world. She also has a healthy inquisitiveness to find stimulating content… and the best pad thai in town.