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Posted February 18, 2005 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News
 
 

Boston's spiciest dishes


Burn, baby, burn: Turn up the heat with Boston’s spiciest dishes
By Mat Schaffer
Friday, February 18, 2005

Sick of the snow? Fed up with the cold? Turn up the heat! There’s no better way to banish the midwinter blahs than with spicy food. Frigid temperatures are just right for dishes flavored with pungent peppers such as piquins, jalapenos and serranos. They’ll remind you of tropical climes and they’ll make you sweat.
There’s a reason why some like it hot. It’s capsaicin, the chemical in chilies. When capsaicin irritates your mouth, your brain releases endorphins, which ease the pain and induce a natural euphoria – a chili high.
All chilies are not the same, heat-wise. Pepper potency is measured by a scale created in 1912 by pharmacologist Orville Scoville – from 0 Scoville units for a mild bell pepper to 550,000 Scoville units for an incendiary Caribbean red habanero.
When your face is flushed, your tongue is ablaze and tears are running down your cheeks, remember this: Capsaicin is an oil and doesn’t mix with water. Instead, reach for something starchy to cool your mouth – a roll, rice or pasta, even a banana.
How much spice can you handle? See for yourself at the following local “hot” spots:
THAI: Bangkok City. In the “traditional” section of the menu, designed for Thai patrons, you’ll find such delicacies as nam prik ka pi ($8.95), a pounded paste of dried shrimp and chilies eaten as a dip with fresh or fried vegetables. The Thai basil in nua pad prik ($9.50) – spicy beef with chili sauce – smells sweet but the sliced green chilies are dangerous. Heat and sweet are the predominant flavors in pla dook pad gra pow krob ($14.75), fried catfish fillets garnished with chili sauce and grated coconut. Watch for the dried red peppers scattered throughout chicken larb ($9.95), smoky minced chicken, red onions and roasted rice powder. True hotheads should ask for the condiment tray of chili sauce, chili powder, chili flakes in fish sauce and pickled chilies in fish sauce.
BBQ and GRILL: East Coast Grill & Raw Bar . East Coast’s wickedly intense, make-your-scalp-smoke Inner Beauty hot sauce has made this Inman Square haute roadhouse/oyster bar nationally famous among serious heat-seekers. Oh, there’s piquant ginger-chili sauce on meaty Xiao Jianming’s double-cooked pork ribs ($3 apiece) and a ticklish tingle to the roll-your-own, chili-rubbed black ‘n’ blue tuna taco ($8.50). And you’ll be intrigued by the subtle burn in the lychee-chili sambal that accompanies chili-glazed seared jumbo shrimp and scallops ($23.50). But the West Indian Party Beef from HELL!!! ($7.50), chunks of sirloin basted with Inner Beauty, may make you scream in triumph – or pain. And the spit-roasted Jamaican Jerk half chicken ($14.50), with a ramekin of Inner Beauty perched under a wing, is no pushover either.
CARIBBEAN: Green Street Grill. The nightly live music at this renovated Central Square saloon can be as hot as what you’re eating. A laid-back, sun-kissed Caribbean island-style heat underscores the cuisine. You can taste it in the smoky chili salsa that accompanies coriander-scented, pan-fried bluefish cakes ($8) and in the coconut curried lobster broth in which the chefs steam plump Prince Edward Island mussels ($8). Grilled jerk chicken wings ($7) have a sassy nutmeg twang – dunk them into pineapple-banana ketchup. Watch your personal Scoville meter rise when you dig into “spicy” (and it is) coconut curried goat stew ($16) brimming with such exotic vegetables as malanga, chayote and calabaza. The almost-as-spicy seafood and chorizo gumbo ($23) is Creole-confident and brazenly briny with lots of clams, oysters, cod cheeks and pods of okra.
INDIAN: India Quality Restaurant. The gratis jar of tomato and onion relish on every table is a fiery portent of what’s to come. Diners can order dishes “mild, medium or hot” – be sure a defibrillator’s handy, because as far as this kitchen is concerned, “hot” means lip-singeing and tear-inducing. You’ll be wiping your eyes at the first forkful of shrimp and potato vindaloo ($12.95) in vinegary gravy and keema matar ($11.95), dry-cooked minced lamb studded with peas, potatoes and slivered ginger. There’s strong gingery bite to dal makhani ($9.50), slow-simmered lentils and beef curry ($10.95) in thick, muddy-brown colored gravy. Despite the sweetness of a sprinkling of dried coconut flakes, chicken Goa ($11.95) – white meat chicken in a rich creamy sauce – boasts a lingering chili burn.
KOREAN: Koreana. Anything edible that’s fire-engine red may require a fire extinguisher at this Seoul-fully good Korean outpost off Central Square. You’ll learn that lesson at first taste of dokbokgi ($8.95) – chewy rice cakes with vegetables and chili paste – or heart-stoppingly hot stir-fried squid ($13.95). Cold bibim naeng myun ($11.95), noodles you mix with chili paste, stock, slices of beef, Asian pear and a hard-boiled egg, will do little to ease the delectable discomfort. Dobu jaeyuk bokum ($14.95), tofu-topped stir-fried pork, and kimchi, the spicy-sour pickled cabbage that Koreans adore, adds to the agony/ecstasy.Though cook-your-own bulgogi (marinated rib eye barbecue, $15.95) isn’t spicy at all, many of the panchan (pickles) that come with it are: peppery cucumber and assorted kimchis. Pass the makgurli ($12.95), milky, unfiltered rice wine.


Nick Lindauer

 
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