What is the Spiciest Cuisine You've Ever Tried?

The question is deliberately broad/subjective so as to 1) help me plan future vacations, and B) hopefully help others who enjoy chilies.

I’d toss in Manadonese (from Manado), and Batak (from around Lake Toba) as Indonesia’s two candidates. Aceh and Sunda compete nicely, but they weren’t quite as picante as the former two.

The first time I had cochinita pibil, a Yucatecan pork specialty, my mouth was struggling due to the xnipec (habanero and red onion salsa) served with it.

Then again, there was a random restaurant in Kerala that served a grilled fish dish that was easily on the same level as Manado and Batak. Have tried some Goan vindaloo – not in Goa – but not a fan.

Vietnam and Thailand are certainly up there, but I don’t know the regions well enough. It’s usually a point and click (don’t know the languages/forgot to jot down the names).

For an outlier, my pension manager in Ohrid, North Macedonia gave me a vezena piperka (a local type of pepper) which rendered me incapable of speech for a few minutes. Once that initial furnace calmed down, it made an excellent addition to the koftinja.

Macedonian cuisine uses pfefferonis, too, so it does have some heat.

Hmm, I probably shouldn’t include one-offs such as fresh chilies, as those could be grown all over the place. Ah, here we are.

Where are your nominations for spiciest cuisines?


The hottest dishes I can recall eating in a restaurant were part of a rijstaffel in Amsterdam. So, should I answer your question with “Indonesian” as that’s where rijstaffel’s origins are. Or should I answer “Dutch” as it was always a colonial dish and is very much now part of food culture in the Netherlands - just as South Asian food in the UK relates to our colonial past.

By the by, isn’t it interesting that we define a cuisine as “spicy” solely on the basis of its use of chilli, rather than than the fragrance and presence of the many spices you’ll find, say, in South Asian food.

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Short answers: Indian or Mexican (in general)

This is tough because a lot of times there are specific sub-cuisine within a major cuisine that is very spicy. For example, as a whole, the entire Chinese cuisine is not that spicy, but the major sub-regional Chinese cuisines like Hunan and Sichuan can be. I don’t consider the general American taste/palate to be particular spicy, but Caroline reaper is developed here.

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A Lao chef in my hometown has cooked quite a few things for me off menu. I simply asked her to make it as she would eat it.

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Thai or Indian.

I was thinking back to the first time I tried Wasabi. I put a bit too much on a piece of sushi. Lesson learned…

Now I want some sushi, I’ll have to make some rolls later in the week.

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The hottest item of food I ever had in my life was at a Korean restaurant in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Everyone else eating in there was a Korean expat, and it was Korean-owned, so I figure the food was as Korean as I’m ever going to get (and I’ve been to Korea, too). I don’t remember what it was, but I remember only being able to eat one bite every few minutes because it was so hot that I needed to eat at least two bites of rice afterwards and wait for my mouth to cool down.

I don’t find Indian food all that hot (I’ve been to India about 25x, all over the country and eat in local places with locals, so I feel like I know it pretty well). It’s very spicy in that it’s got a ton of spices in it, but it’s not full of searingly hot peppers, generally.

Certain items of Mexican food can be super hot. Honestly, one of the spiciest things I’ve had was a chili-mango paleta (popsicle). I had to eat that one in very small doses, too.

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An Evil Jungle Prince Vegetable curry at a Thai restaurant in Calgary burned my gums when I tried to take a bite.

The Mongolian food I’ve had near me (Arlington, VA) is extremely bland, with almost no flavoring whatsoever. Is that a good representation? It was like they put the food through a deflavorizing machine.

How far did you get in eating it or finishing the dish?

Long long ago in NYC at one of my first Japanese restaurant forays I thought the wasabi was some kind of avocado/ guacamole dish and popped a big bite in my mouth. My dinner companions screamed spit it out which I did, but still got a blast of heat.

We used to eat at Hunan restaurant on Kearny in SF and that was definitely the spiciest food I had eaten up till then. It was delicious.

Thai and Bhutanese foods have provided my most painful eating experiences.

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I finished my serving, maybe half a cup. I didn’t take seconds.

I now don’t eat things that burn my gums because it leads to discomfort later. I can handle things that make my eyes water and nose run, but I don’t eat things that make my mouth or gums burn anymore.

Was not Mongolian food.

Chicken dopiaza. I was just starting to cook Indian recipes. Back in the last ice age, I had no heat tolerance. Black pepper was spicy to me. The recipe called for 1 tbsp of red chilli powder in a dish meant to serve 4. It was the hottest thing I had ever eaten. My mouth felt like the third circle of hell, but the other flavours were so good that, in between sucked in breaths, I’d take another bite. That chicken was the gateway dish to the food I enjoy now. You know the food is good when it bites back.

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I’m going to say probably Sichuan or Thai, but the dishes that came to mind as being difficult to finish I had when I was much, much younger (16-20 yrs old). My tolerance for hot foods has risen dramatically as I have gotten older. Although, now that I think about it, a now defunct Sichuan place did serve me a Dan Dan Noodle once that caused an involuntary tear producing reaction. That was within the last 5-6 years. It was glorious!

When I was in college though, I once had a plate of Kung Pao chicken that gave me a nose bleed. That was pretty hot!


Mongolian food IS very bland. I was talking about a Korean meal I had while in Mongolia.

Thai can be spicy, but in my experience, the average India dishes I have are still more spicy than average Thai dishes.