There’s that moment when the server asks, “are you sure you want to order that dish?” There’s that time when you look at the number of chili icons on the menu and think, “I’m gonna go for it.”
Spicy food makes for some of our best food stories. We tell friends about that time we braved the most dangerous dish on a restaurant’s menu. We test the balance between flavour and tolerance. And, for some, spice is addictive.
This month, we recommend five dishes that aren’t for the faint of heart. Let’s move up the Scoville scale, and have something on hand to cool yourself off after these dining adventures. photography by Paul Swanson
Rosso Pizza at Rosso Pizzeria
at Rosso Pizzeria
I must confess – when it comes to spicy foods, I’m a bit of a wimp. I want to enjoy them, but I always tend to go for the lowest possible chili pepper ranking when given the option. So, initially, the Rosso pizza, with its quartet of spicy toppings, seemed like something for true spice devotees only. However, when I finally mustered up the courage to try it, I was pleasantly surprised.
The duo of meats, a spicy soppressata and organic hot Italian sausage, are flavourful and fiery without being overpowering. The fattiness of the meat tempers the spice, as does the duo of cheeses atop the pizza. The hot peppers add a burst of heat, while the chili oil provides a low-level simmer in bites lacking one of the other spicy toppings. It certainly won’t get you reaching for water and wiping your teary eyes, but the varying intensities of heat, all layered on one delectable pizza, will please any palate.-Adrianna Szenthe
I’ve reviewed restaurants for a while now – I’ve used a heck of a lot of adjectives to describe various dishes over the years. But the Spicy and Sour Soup at this 97th Street noodle shop has so much going on, it’s hard to find the words to describe it.
You can’t miss this spot on the Chinatown strip; the restaurant’s faade shines with bright pastels. Once inside, I take a spot in the booth and am warned that the spicy and sour soup, is well, pretty spicy. I tell the server I feel like living dangerously.
What arrives is a vat – the portion is huge – of pork, wide, white house noodles and shredded vegetables in a deep red broth. Sesame seeds and chilis float to the top, and a liberal dose of peanuts are dunked into the mix. At first, the sour notes hit hard enough to make you pucker, then the heat kicks in. After a few bites, I am sweating hard. The server fills and refills my water without me having to ask. The broth is almost overwhelming in its complexity; I haven’t tasted anything quite like this in Edmonton, but I’m itching to try it again. –Steven Sandor
10626 97 St., 780-497-8280 Dragon Ramen at Nudoru Ramen Bar
at Nudoru Ramen Bar
I’ve been punched in the face before and, while it is not the most pleasant experience in the world, I appreciate that, when it happened, I at least saw it coming. This is more than I can say of the Dragon Bowl at the Nudoru Ramen Bar on Whyte Ave. Or as I like to call it: “The soup that beat me.”
It seemed harmless enough. In a restaurant that leaves a majority of the Ramen creations up to the diner (using handy tabletop forms to allow customers to choose ingredients), I assumed (my first mistake) that the three chef-created concepts on the menu would be an introductory course for the uninitiated to Japanese ramen.
Sure, three illustrated peppers sat beside the item on the menu, but I assumed that meant the soup was “spicy” – “not melt your face off and pray that you’ll survive the meal.”
Perhaps I should have asked before I ordered. Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed that Nudoru was like every other restaurant, overhyping a pepper rating system. Maybe I should have had more faith in it, and I wouldn’t have ended up a sniveling tearstained mess.
Because, believe it or not, under all that searing and scorching pain, lies a really delicious soup. The pork shoulder, soft egg and earthy pork broth underlying the chili paste came through in the finish. And that’s the trick with hot food – if the flavours are deep enough, you’ll go through hell to reach them. –Cory Haller
10532 82 Ave., 780-757-6836 Angry Bison at Situation Brewing
at Situation Brewing
At Edmonton’s newest brewery, the food is made to accompany the beer which means you’ll get flavours across the spectrum – including a bit of spice.
The Angry Bison is the sort of burger designed to have just enough heat to call it spicy. It’s pretty entry-level stuff, but it brings enough heat for those who like it hot – just not too hot. The burger is served on a brioche bun and is topped with a six-ounce bison patty (which is surprisingly moist for such a tough animal), lettuce, tomato and Situation’s house ketchup. The spice on this burger comes from the addition of the crispy peppers and spicy cheese croquettes. The croquettes are crispy but, when you bite in to them, a soft gooey cheese centre releases all that greasy goodness buried in the burger, and its only after you’ve swallowed your bite that you begin to feel a slight burn on that back of your tongue. Which, of course, prompts you to take a nice big swig from the beer menu, like the light dry taste of the brewery’s Declan’s Irish Stout. -C.H.
My first indication that I’m in trouble is that, when I order them, the waitress asks if I mean something else like the buffalo wings or suicide wings. When I tell her that, no, I in fact wish to sample Jungle Jim’s Insanity-Style Wings, she shakes her head, laughs, and informs me that I’ll need to sign a waiver.
According to the form, I have to be over 18 years old to eat them (another bad sign), and I must take all responsibility for any “negative or positive repercussions” upon consuming the wings, which are made using habanero peppers. These bad boys can range between 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale, but I’m confident that I can handle them.
Immediately following my first bite I realize that I am in no way prepared for the all-consuming hellfire that scorches my mouth. My nose runs, my face breaks into a heavy sweat and tears stream down my face. My lips burn and I use a napkin to wipe and continue on, but as the blistering heat continues to plunge every bit of moisture from my nose, eyes, and pores, I make the fatal mistake and wiping my brow with the same napkin.
I’m blinded. My eyes burn, and I can’t see. In a heavy daze I finish each wing now trying to justify the pain I’ve inflicted on myself. Blind, red-faced and a blubbering mess, I finish the basket.
Some friendly patrons who have been enjoying the show dump sugar packets into my mouth, telling me it will help with the burn. I order milk and rinse my mouth, but the sensation doesn’t go away for nearly an hour.
The name says it all. You’d have to be out of your mind to eat Jungle Jim’s Insanity-Style Wings. Hell, I question my own sanity for trying them the once. But if you’re a heat-hound on a quest for the spiciest wings in our fair city, this is no-doubt the dish to land on. -C.H.