Spicy food challenges, California (or anywhere!)

Well, noting that a new ramen place is opening up in BH with the “Hell Challenge,” I thought maybe a good time to survey the options.

The new comer… Strings Ramen (from Chicago) opening up on 225 S. Beverly Drive, BH

The veteran. Jitlada, the Spicy Dynamite Challenge…basically, pick your protein for the team to incinerate.

Jitlada, 5233 W. Sunset Blvd, LA

Spicy Dynamite Challenge – Jitlada (jitladala.com)

Most of the hottest stuff I’ve had in town is in Thai Town. The Bull Demon Cafe in Rosemead is closed pretty sure, they had a beef noodle offering.

Not really a challenge per se but the Howlin’ Hot level at Howlin’ Rays really brings the heat (Hot Boys in Oakland tasty but a notch below). Same with the Chiles Toreados at Guisados (makes their fabulous horchata even better).

What others are there? Bonus points for actually being tasty.


Hi @chienrouge ,

Pure evil, bringing this up as Southern California is being roasted with the Summer heatwave! :stuck_out_tongue: :wink:

Have you actually survived the Howlin’ Ray’s Level 6 “Howlin’” Spice Level?! :open_mouth: I’m a chili wimp, so the hottest level I survived at Howlin’ Ray’s was Level 3+ “Medium+” (when they were doing the “slight bump” to the next level before COVID. They might’ve gotten rid of the “+” levels. So Medium+ actually had a tiny bit of Level 4 “Hot” in there (which has the Ghost Chili Peppers). It was… inferno for me. :sweat_smile:

We’ve observed numerous foolhardy challengers who attempted Level 6 Howlin’, and it was not good. :cold_sweat: Usually the initial reaction when we observed them (before COVID) was…

(initial reaction) “That’s not bad…”
(1 minute later) (worried look, sweating.)
(after that) Aggravated pain, sweating profusely, begging to drink something ice cold, running around (leaving their seats) in pain. :sweat_smile:

Jitlada: Yah, back in the day they had a 10 point scale, and Co-Owner Jazz would take our order and ask us, what level? Suffice to say OG Jitlada Level 3 was highest we ever made it (and we were all in pain). :frowning:

many times, I love it…it’s so hot but it’s so delicious you can’t stop. Rubber gloves can be helpful. Dunking my head into a friend’s pool and holding a hose in my mouth has happened. I’d say the mild pain wanes into a pleasant “runner’s high” (or so I am told). There is euphoria to be had and something special that other regular food just cannot deliver.

re Jitlata…Jazz can really bring the heat…that dry beef curry is so tasty. Id say some of her fare is every bit as hot as Ray’s, and probably the hottest I have encountered in LA. I can also really get down with the super spicy papaya salad at Issan Station too. Hot and cool, together. I tend to limit myself to really spicy but also delicious. Luv2eat Thai has a reputation for heat like the crab curry but I’m calling bullshit on that. Decent restaurant. Hell, a lot better than decent but many places in Thai town much much hotter.

Another thing that surprised me is that the Szechuan fare despite so many peppers and chilis just isn’t that hot. Szechuan impression and the like with the water boiled fish green peppercorn fish mapa tofu and the chicken with the peppers. It’s damn tasty. Maybe I haven’t had the right dish.

I’m not up for stupid dares, not worth it. But some things are!

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Hi @chienrouge ,

That is amazing! :slight_smile: You survived Howlin’ Ray’s Level 6 “Howlin’” multiple times?! You’re definitely a chili head. :wink: Yah, I’d say even the Level 3+ I did at Howlin’ was tasty, despite it being very spicy (for me). Still had such great flavor to it.

I agree with Luv2Eat that it’s not that spicy. Tasty food, we like it, but it’s not on the level of Jitlada’s hellfire. :sweat_smile:

Szechuan cuisine has never hit those extremes (that I’ve tried). It’s not about searing heat, but it is the “Mala” (numbing) spiciness and also direct heat as well. It’s just tasty, and pretty hot, but not Howlin’ or Jitalada-style heights of pain.


I have a special talent. I’m also very adroit with ice cream tho so go figure.

I’m always looking for spicy food. Some other memorable stuff heatwise includes these little chilis that looked like tic tacs that we had in vietnam (and westminster too i may add), and some really super duper spicy Vindaloo in London and UK. I know that might not be everyone’s favorite for Indian food but me i love it. I haven’t found any Indian food here that even comes close tho that in quality or heat - welcome any tips.

I’ve also had the hot chicken in nashville and I can say that it brings the heat too. My favorite there is Hattie B’s and they seem to be the blueprint in more ways than one for Rays, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Hot Boys in Oakland is worth checking out too. It’s really good chicken.

Any other spots you know about with spicy stuff @Chowseeker1999 ?

Hot sauces are key too. That shop in the Farmer’s Market has the requisite Dave’s Insanity sauce line up (maybe not the best tasting solo, but just the thing to raise the temperature in a pot of chili, or to juice up some bbq sauce or srichara).

Mala szechuan peppers are nice to have in a pepper grinder for easy access and use. Really they don’t go with everything, but i find it nice on a roasted chicken, rubbed into the skin w salt. For steak I’ll go for raw thinly sliced jalapenos or habeneros instead.



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Awesome what would you order ?

Spicy Chicken Feet & Ddubokki

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Which one the boneless charbroiled served spicy or stew ?

Hi @chienrouge ,

Wow, it sounds like you really enjoy spicy, seriously! :wink: That’s awesome you tried OG actual Hot Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee! Nice. :slight_smile:

I would be the wrong person to ask for incendiary, Hellfire Spice-level restaurants in So Cal! :sweat_smile: Remember, I’m a chili wimp! But I have friends who are crazy for spice as well, so sometimes I get dragged along (or try to survive the best I can). :wink:

I think Howlin’ Ray’s and Jitlada would be L.A.'s hottest (literally) restaurants? But besides that, do you like Hunan Province cuisine? Different from Szechuan, not really Mala numbing spice. Just HOT! :slight_smile:

I remember enjoying Hunan Chili King on Valley Blvd.:

Hunan Chili King
534 Valley Blvd., Suite #2-3
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: (626) 288-7993

We went a few times over the years, but not since COVID-19, so I can’t vouch for it now, but it was a nice spicy level when we went. I’ll defer to our SGV experts like @ipsedixit @A5KOBE @paranoidgarliclover and others if they remember any other Hunan recommendations. :wink:

I’ll also ping my chili head friends to see if they have other recs. :slight_smile:

Hi thanks. I’ve had dishes like hunan lamb with chilis scallions cilantro but don’t think I’ve been to a restaurant like that. Thanks

I enjoy mine with bones - Charbroil #1. Prolonged burn time working through those little bones.

Get some rice balls for breaks to soothe your palate. Their spice levels are on par with howlin grade WMD.

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Ooh, I’m not a chili head! Based on @Chowseeker1999’s description of their reaction to spicy food, I think I probably have a similar tolerance level (moderate).

Having said that, I imagine Luv2Eat might have some spicy stuff. Their crab/fish curry is a bit past my upper end of tolerance, and I think they might have stuff spicier than that?

Edit: just noticed Luv2Eat was already mentioned. Do people really not find the crab/fish curry not that spicy???

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Hi I’ve asked them to amp it up and make it “Thai spicy” and extra spicy and such but I don’t find it very spicy. It’s tasty. Funky. Has some spice. It’s not my favorite dish there. I’ve found their papaya salad with some nudging is their most spicy dish for me anyways. But it’s spicier at other spots.

I’m keen to try these, thank you. Pulled this picture off the internet, looks like a great spicy treat.

YupDduk Ddukbokki Spicy Challenge MUKBANG EATING SHOW | L.A. | RainaisCrazy - YouTube

(Raina does a bunch of these spicy challenge videos - she’s terrific!)


Questions like this always make me curious.

Does one want spicy food just to, like, fuck themselves miserable? Or do they actually want tasty spicy foods?

Because if it’s the latter, there really should be no “challenge” per se. Because is there really a “challenge” in eating delicious food? I would hope not.

In any event, if one is simply looking to fuck themselves miserable, then simply go to Ma Lu Bian Bian in Rowland Heights and order a big plate of their spicy pig brains, and chase each bite with big gulps from their bowls of spicy hot pot dipping sauce. Yeah, not doing that any time soon, or ever. But if you want a “challenge” go for it …

But if one were looking for some good, delicious spicy foods, go to Lin’s Club in Monrovia, and try the Hot Pot Beef Noodle Soup or the Pork Intestines. Skip the stinky tofu. Spicy and delicious. My kind of food.


For me, there’s a sort of rush that starts with sweat on the back of neck and scalp and then a euphoric kind of feeling that compliments good food. I absolutely adore the spicy flavor too.

Yeah, sometimes, trying something new. Having your mouth and body react to something different. What can be a challenge the first time, is less challenging the more used to hot foods a person can get…i always hear, chien, your tastebuds must be burned up so you can’t taste it…but i can and i guess the tolerance goes up like booze…love karen allen in indiana jones!

Stuff that includes big gulps of lava like hot pot sauce or leftover ramen broth are far less appealing than something like the hot chicken (or chicken feet which i want to try thanks @Sgee ). I also think volume isn’t super important. I am very happy with 3 full size howlin wings whereas without the heat i probably eat much more. Also hot things go well with cooling things, like white rice, or horchata.

Good tip on Lin’s Club.


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Hi @ipsedixit ,

LOLOL. :laughing: :sweat_smile: Yah that Ma Lu Bian Bian challenge sounds ridiculous. :sweat: But my Offal loving friends might want to know - Spicy Pig Brains! :open_mouth: Thanks.

Lin’s Club - Ooh! New restaurant? Thanks for the tip! Is the “Hot Pot Beef Noodle Soup” like a… Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup? Or something else? Thanks!

Oh shit, you got too much hot sauce on my pig brains damn I can’t eat that now!

Cultural differences for sure - I’ve enjoyed most cooked offal I’ve tried. Gotta be some challenge items out there !

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If you enjoy sweetbreads/shirako, chances are you’ll like pig brains too.

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