Bring the spice!
October 25, 2012 1:40 AM   Subscribe

Summer is coming and I'll have a lot of time on my hands. What are some of the tastiest spicy foods you've ever had? I'm thinking Indian, but Cajun, Mexican and so forth are all possibilities. I'm after interesting, involved recipes that can be spicy, but are above all TASTY. What should I make?

I have a well-quipped kitchen, and my kitchen skills are medium-to-advanced. I eat anything (except balut and insects) and I have access to great produce. I can easily get Indian and Asian products, and can source harder-to-find South American products without difficulty. There are several outstanding spice stores in my area.

I lived in Chinatown for years, so I'm a bit over Chinese/Korean/Japanese/Thai foods and I've been cooking a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern food lately. What delicious things have you eaten that I should make?
posted by ninazer0 to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
You are making your own indian pickles right? They are pretty easy but the faffing around with jars makes it a project.
I just did a batch of green mango pickle and I'm dying to know how it has turned out.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 2:38 AM on October 25, 2012

Best answer: I'm a big fan of Chuck's gumbo and jambalaya, but really, you can't go wrong with cajun or creole.
posted by Dysk at 2:49 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Vindaloo has a reputation as the choice of idiot Spice Warriors who see curries as a test of manliness rather than food to be enjoyed. However, I'm damned if Jamie Oliver's Pork Vindaloo - whilst undeniably hot - isn't one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. The recipe can be found here and the recipe for the paste (which you should definitely make, rather than use premade) is here.

The pork is the focus of the dish, but the tomatoes come out so delicious it almost makes you want to weep. Totally serious.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:51 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sod it, while I'm kissarsing the fat-tongued one to death, his Chicken Piri Piri is pretty spicy and also staggeringly tasty. Man can be a sap but he knows food.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:55 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Madhur Jaffri's Green Corriander Chicken. Definitely make that.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:56 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Er, I'm sort of posting these as they come to mind, hope that's ok. This Habanero Sauce is amazing, blisteringly hot but addictive in a sort of stop-hitting-yourself way.

From the same site, I can't say enough good things about this Peruvian Spatchcocked Chicken and its attendant sauce - sweet, sharp, spicy. This one got compliments of an almost sexual nature (toward the dish, not me...) last time I made it.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:06 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not Middle Eastern at all, but if you love spicy things you need Buffalo Wings in your life - this is probably the best non-deep-fry recipe I've found. The sauce is probably the recipe I've been asked for most, and it's always a pleasing answer to give - "About 50-50 hot sauce and butter. You didn't really need that last month of your life anyway, right?"
posted by ominous_paws at 3:10 AM on October 25, 2012

Two more things and I'm done:

- I don't have a go-to recipe, but Chicken Pista is a great curry - a sort of green korma with pistachios in the sauce.

- For middle eastern stuff I'd heartily recommend the Ottolenghi books, the Moro books (which basically range from Spain to the Middle East) and a vegetarian book called Veggiestan, which a few of my friends have and rate massively.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:13 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I cook a lot of Indian food, and I can't recommend Raghaven Iyer's 660 Curries enough. Interesting and tasty describe pretty much everything I've made in that book, and its taught me a lot of techniques I wouldn't have encountered otherwise, even in other good Indian cookbooks (Jaffrey and others.)
posted by juliapangolin at 4:52 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh man and muhammara OH GOD SO GOOD
posted by ominous_paws at 5:58 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Similar to buffalo chicken wings, Nashville Hot Chicken is definitely something with heat and a beautiful flavor. The recipe is always something that is discussed and there's no real proven method, mainly because Prince's doesn't like to tell their secrets, but this recipe is close. I do like to put my spices in the buttermilk that the chicken soaks in and then add a little in the lard coating. It's wonderful with a slice of white bread and a pickle.

Another American spicy food is chili, of course, there's as many different versions of chili as there are chili cooks. So you can play with this all you want.
posted by teleri025 at 6:26 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: And rose petal harissa.

(I do have an actual job, swear to God.)
posted by ominous_paws at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: West African food is very spicy. And very good. I ate a version of this spinach and peanut sauce that had tilapia while I was in Cote d'Ivoire and it was so good and so hot, I just ate and cried and ate some more and then cried.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:48 AM on October 25, 2012

Best answer: Riffing on the Cajun -

1. Red beans and rice.

2. Jambalaya.

Neither are overloaded-spicy, but both are delicious. And as much as I initially disliked Emeril Legasse - damned if he doesn't have a good recipe for red beans and rice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cajun food isn't naturally very spicy -- authentic recipes don't call for anything hotter than a bell pepper. It's more herbal and earthy, with lots of bay leaves, smoked sausage, and dark roux. A lot of Cajun people enjoy spicy food and add Tabasco or other vinegar-based hot sauces (and sometimes spiced salt blends like Tony Chachere's) to taste at the table, the same way you'd add salt or pepper. But beware any "Cajun" recipe that calls for hot peppers. It's not Cajun.

You will sometimes see cayenne pepper used in a spice rub for meats. This is the origin of the "blackened" technique, I believe, and the reason non-Cajuns associate spiciness with the cuisine.

Unless you're talking about boiled shellfish, which, yes, employs liberal doses of cayenne.
posted by Sara C. at 7:01 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should make "berbere," an Ethiopian spice blend, and use it in lentil stews and veg dishes and the like. I have had good results from Saveur and the stuff at "" Berbere heat is easily adjustable and I find it a magical blend because it makes ordinary ingredients like lentils taste luxurious, and because it is an unusually warming food experience, even at a lower intensity heat-wise.
posted by kmennie at 7:35 AM on October 25, 2012

Show Me the Curry was recommended to me by an Indian visiting scholar as a good reference for Indian cooking. I've used many of their recipes and found them excellent (disclaimer: I am not an expert on Indian cooking!) That might be a good resource for expanding your spicy, yet tasty, options.
posted by absquatulate at 7:57 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since no one has mentioned the Caribbean, let me be the first. Jerk chicken tends to have a great sweet complexity behind what can be a solid kick in the face. Sorry I don't have a link to a great recipe.
posted by advicepig at 8:13 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Just came to mention jerk chicken, and I see that advicepig beat me to it. Here's a recipe I've used to great success. It's from Saveur magazine, which I used to subscribe to and perhaps should again.
posted by mollweide at 8:26 AM on October 25, 2012

Best answer: If you do jerk chicken breasts, eat them on Bimini Bread, with a remoulade and I promise you, you will see God.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:32 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you like unusual spices, then a good place to look is Moorish cooking. The first Moro cookbook is amazing.

Their harissa chicken is a fiery beast, but a good way to warm up as the days get cooler. It uses a lot of chillis.

If you want spice but not fire, then moroccan lamb, which is basically a leg of lamb marinaded in a mixture of ras-el-hanout is both unusual and delicious. Serve it with your favourite types of middle eastern sauces on the side and couscous, potatoes or whatever you want. If you're a bit short on cooking time then butterfly the leg and half the cooking time.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ddeokbokki - Korean street food involving chunks of Korean rice cake and spicy gochujang paste.
posted by mayurasana at 9:43 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Camarones en aguachile, or shrimp in chile water is a SUPER easy recipe that's a similar to ceviche but really hot and fresh at the same time, so it's great for summer. Accompany with beer, tequila or Clamato. Yum

Here's a recipe.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I just realized you're not interested in Korean food right now. In Indian food, you might want to look at cuisine from Andhra Pradesh, including Hyderabadi cuisine.

Sambar, a hot and sour stew from southern Indian is easy to prepare at home.

Also, tandoori anything can be made in standard ovens.
posted by mayurasana at 10:18 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome - the links to the African stuff look right up my alley. I've been making some Moroccan and Egyptian stuff, but haven't ventured any further than that - looks like an interesting direction to head into and the bonus is that I've got at least two African food stores around here (lot of Somali refugees in this area). The suggestion for jerk chicken also looks good too - I hadn't thought about the Caribbean at all. Also, would Cuban food be worth looking into? I know nothing about the cuisine.

(I should say, when I say spicy I mean actual spices and not heat necessarily.)
posted by ninazer0 at 2:36 PM on October 25, 2012

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