The authentic dan dan noodle

Chinese spicy dishes


Chongqing Chicken Wings at Mission Chinese FoodRobert Sietsema

Maybe there's something a little masochistic in eating spicy food, but it's a great way to stave off the most brutal elements of winter. So whether you're a thrill-seeker or just trying to forget the mountains of ice outside, here's a guide to 12 of the spiciest, most face-melting dishes in the city right now. Some are new, some are old, and they come from every part of the world, but all are guaranteed to make your tongue burn and your eyes water – in a good way, of course.

1 Mapo Tofu Szechuan Gourmet

It doesn't matter what you get here, the preponderance of Sichuan peppercorns in most of these dishes mean that they will be not only criminally spicy, but also possess an addictive numbing quality referred to as "mala" in Chinese. But the mapo tofu is a classic, and a good go-to for spice fiends. [Photo]

21 W 39th St
New York, NY 10018

(212) 921-0233

2 Chilate De Pollo Sopa at El Bombon

An equally good cure for colds or hangovers, at a cost of just $8.50. This soothing chicken broth gets a sharp sting of heat from guajillo chiles, plus good dose of starch in the form of potatoes. Do try this next time you’re feeling under the weather, it'll clear those sinuses right out. [Photo: Robert Sietsema]

73-13 Roosevelt Ave
Queens, NY 11377

(718) 205-2996

3 Jerk Chicken at The Islands

A great neighborhood spot for some seriously spicy jerk chicken. It's stewed, not grilled, so it's super tender, and comes with heaps of rice and peas and sauteed cabbage on the side. The upstairs dining room is tiny and homey, and stays warm and steamy in the winter. Plus it's BYOB.

803 Washington Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

(718) 398-3575

4 Chongqing Chicken Wings at Mission Chinese Food

While any dish marked with two pepper symbols on the menu will be plenty spicy, the hottest of all might be the Chongqing chicken wings. They're deep fried, tossed in a cumin and Sichuan peppercorn-heavy spice blend, and served with a handful of whole dried chilies (which you don't actually have to eat, unless you really want to). [Photo: Robert Sietsema]

71 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002

5 Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad at Xi'an Famous Foods

At this point an old standby, Xian’s intriguing mix of Chinese preparations and Muslim influences is best experienced in the plethora of cumin scented lamb dishes they have on offer. Try the spicy and tingly lamb face salad: Various head cuts, including cheek and tongue, plus bean sprouts, cucumber, and celery, for crunch, doused in a sauce that features cumin, star anise, and cinnamon along with plenty of roasted chili oil and Sichuan pepper.

81 Saint Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003

6 Jungle Curry at Lan Larb Soho

Critic Robert Sietsema risked gastrointestinal integrity to write up the spice factor found at this Isan Thai restaurant, which he awarded four stars. Get the jungle curry (a clear broth with eggplant and other vegetables), ask for it as spicy as they'll make it, and it will be "like a flamethrower aimed at your mouth." Pro tip: bring a bottle riesling with you while this restaurant is still BYOB. [Photo: Robert Sietsema]

227 Centre St
New York, NY 10013

(646) 895-9264

7 Pepper Shrimp Soup at Maima's Liberian Bistro And Bar

Maima's is quite possibly the only Liberian restaurant in the city. That alone is worth the price of admission, but for spice fans that need further enticement, the pepper soup packs a painful wallop of heat. It's a fiery cauldron of scotch bonnets with a bit of shrimp and crab meat thrown in, and closer to a stew than a soup. For more information about the history of Maima's check out Robert Sietsema's informative video. [ Photo]

106-47 Guy R Brewer Blvd
Jamaica, NY 11433

(718) 206-3538

8 Spicy Ramen at Totto Ramen

There may be hipper ramen shops out there, but none with a more seamless integration of spice than that found in Totto's spicy ramen. It has a chicken and soy base, char siu for heft, and big does of rayu-a spicy sesame oil to give it a kick. Really damn good ramen, and much shorter lines than at Ivan Ramen or Mu. Kind of a no brainer.

248 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022

(212) 421-0052

9 Roti Roll at Terry's Gourmet Deli

Before we had the ghost pepper, the hottest pepper on the planet was the scotch bonnet. Terry’s Gourmet Deli serves a Trinidadian version of a roti roll with a scotch bonnet sauce that will knock you out. The roti is filled with a mashed potato and chick pea mixture as well as bone-in curried chicken (Trinidadians insist on the bones for flavor). Serious masochists should ask for extra sauce. [Photo: Robert Sietsema]

575 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10011

(212) 206-0170

10 Phaal at Brick Lane Curry House

Brick Lane Curry House claims its phaal is the spiciest dish in New York, and whether or not that's true, it's definitely up there. The fiery red British-style curry is made with tomato, ginger, and at least 10-12 ground whole chillies. The brave souls who can get through a whole serving will be rewarded with their picture on the wall.

99 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

(212) 979-2900

11 The Hot Chicken at Peaches Hothouse

A Southern classic gets its due at the Peaches Hothouse. This is classic hot fried chicken, Nashville style, so proceed with caution. Some say this is the spiciest chicken in the city.

415 Tompkins Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11216

(718) 483-9111

12 Gamjatang (Spicy Pork Stew) at Geo Si Gi Restaurant

Known for its interplay of spicy and sour flavors, Korean food should be on any spice maven’s radar, and the restaurants found in Flushing are among the best in the city. Pete Wells recently visited and mapped the best dishes from each restaurant. Try the Gamjatang (spicy pork stew) at Geo Si Gi and stay on the lookout for sundunbu jjigae, the holy grail of Korean spicy soups. [Photo ]

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