On a frigid February night in Boston, there’s nothing better than tongue-tormenting, sweat-inducing, hot-and-spicy fare. Not only do such dishes conjure up tasty memories of the tropics but they actually make you feel good! When capsaicin, the chemical in chili peppers, irritates your mouth, your brain releases endorphins, which give you a natural, euphoric high.
Bangkok City Restaurant
See for yourself at Bangkok City Restaurant. This is one of the few Thai restaurants in Boston that serves authentic, super-spicy Thai food, in addition to the ubiquitous stir-fries and noodles intended for farang (non-Thai) palates. Try nam prik ka pi, a pounded paste of dried shrimp and chilis served as a dip with fresh and fried vegetables and fish. Or chicken larb, a smoky salad of ground chicken, red onions, dried chilis and roasted rice powder. Aptly named three-chili shrimp is peppery and potent. Ratchet up the heat with the condiment tray of chili sauce, chili powder, chili flakes in fish sauce, and pickled chilis in fish sauce.
167 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617.266.8884
India Quality Restaurant
One of Boston’s oldest Indian restaurants is also one of its spiciest. At India Quality Restaurant in Kenmore Square, diners can order dishes “mild, medium or hot,” but be forewarned that “hot” here means combustible. India Quality is justifiably famous for its vinegary tart and ultra-peppery vindaloo, available in chicken, beef or lamb, its chicken, garlic and red chili-marinated chicken phall with cumin sauce, and its gingery dal makhani creamed lentils. Increase the burn with gratis onion (and powdered chili) chutney, which is especially delicious as a topping for crisp, deep-fried papadum wafers.
484 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617.267.4499
Sichuan cuisine takes center stage at New Shanghai in Chinatown. That means dishes generously seasoned with camphoric peppercorns, ginger, garlic and fresh and dried chilis. Plump pork wontons with red chili sauce are simultaneously hot and sweet. Kung pao chicken is the real thing, literally peppered with dried chili pods and peanuts. New Shanghai also boasts authentic ma pa tofu—bean curd stew “pock-mocked” with diced beef, chili oil and powdered Sichuan peppercorns—and cumin lamb, tossed with dried chilis and cilantro.
21 Hudson St., Boston, 617.338.6688
While Redbones in Davis Square, Somerville, is best known for its barbecue, it’s also a favorite among chili cognoscenti for it’s spicy fare. With specialties like fried pickles and jalapenos, pepper sauce-marinated catfish “fingers” and Buffalo shrimp—the shrimp are bathed in hot sauce before they’re fried and served with blue cheese dressing (or ask for chipotle tartar sauce). Fans of Jamaican jerk will appreciate Redbones’ fiery interpretations of jerk chicken and beef. Of course, you can order any of the ribs with a side of hot (as in peppery) barbecue sauce.
55 Chester Street, Somerville, 617.628.2200