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Chongqing Chicken Wings at Mission Chinese Food
Chongqing Chicken Wings at Mission Chinese Food
Robert Sietsema

12 Insanely Spicy Dishes to Try in New York City

Feel the burn.

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Chongqing Chicken Wings at Mission Chinese Food
| Robert 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.

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Mapo Tofu Szechuan Gourmet

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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]

Chilate De Pollo Sopa at El Bombon

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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]

Jerk Chicken at The Islands

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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. [Photo]

Chongqing Chicken Wings at Mission Chinese Food

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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]

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

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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. [Photo]

Jungle Curry at Lan Larb Soho

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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]

Pepper Shrimp Soup at Maima's Liberian Bistro And Bar

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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]

Spicy Ramen at Totto Ramen

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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. [Photo]

Roti Roll at Terry's Gourmet Deli

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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]

Phaal at Brick Lane Curry House

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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.[Photo]

The Hot Chicken at Peaches Hothouse

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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.

Gamjatang (Spicy Pork Stew) at Geo Si Gi Restaurant

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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]

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]

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. [Photo]

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]

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. [Photo]

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]

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]

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. [Photo]

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]

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.[Photo]

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.

Gamjatang (Spicy Pork Stew) at Geo Si Gi Restaurant

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