India 30.06.2014 Transindus
Asia, perhaps more than any other continent, is famous for its food, with Indian, Chinese, Thai and many other cuisines having become popular all over the world. One of the great things about travelling through the region, therefore, is the fact that you'll get the chance to sample some truly authentic Asian food, and compare it to the sorts of things you're used to trying back home.
Of course, there's loads of variety on offer throughout Asia, with Kerala being famous for its coconut-based curries while Vietnam is well known for its noodle soup dishes like pho. This means that whatever your taste, you're sure to find something that delights your palate. However, in this blog post we're going to be focusing on one attribute that is commonly associated with Asian cuisine - spiciness.
If you're the sort of person who always orders the hottest dish on the menu, then read on for some inspiration on what to try when visiting Asia.
Sichuan hot pot, China
Popular in restaurants throughout Chengdu - the capital of China's Sichuan province - this mouth-melting meal is definitely not one for the faint hearted. Essentially, it consists of a fondue-like pot that contains a red-hot broth made with enough Sichuan peppers to give even the bravest foodies a case of the willies. Diners then dip pieces of meat into the fiery pot, cooking them according to their taste.
Aside from the sheer spiciness of the dish, other flavours you might pick up include garlic, onion and peppercorns - with the latter of these actually helping to numb the tongue so that the peppers don't cause too much distress.
There's always someone who has to be a tough guy and order the vindaloo whenever you go to an Indian restaurant in the UK, although if you want to taste the authentic version then you'll need to head to Goa. The dish itself is actually believed to have been invented by the Portuguese during colonial times, and is therefore typically only found in this particular state in western India.
Usually containing either pork or lamb, the vindaloo is of course given its kick by the infamous 'ghost chilli' - known locally as bhut jolokia. Considered to be the hottest chilli pepper on the planet, it really isn't something you should even think about messing with unless you're an experienced vindaloo eater - or a complete nutcase.
Also served in southern India, the phaal curry, when made correctly, can sometimes be even hotter than the vindaloo. This is because, in addition to the bhut jolokia, phaal also contains a number of other chilli peppers such as the scotch bonnet and the habanero. Most people would find either of these to be quite hot enough on their own, but in this particular dish they are both completely overshadowed by the bhut jolokia, making this the spiciest curry in the world.
Neua pad prik, Thailand
Nothing can quite compare to the bhut jolokia pepper, which typically grows in India, although if you happen to be travelling in south-east Asia and want to experience the hottest food that the region has to offer then keep an eye out for dishes containing the birds-eye chilli pepper.
Hotter than both the habanero and the scotch bonnet, it grows throughout this part of Asia, and is used in dishes like neua pad prik, which is essentially a peppery beef stir fry. Naturally, the main sensation will be heat, although if you haven't completely nuked your taste buds then you may also be able to make out the flavours of garlic, basil and shallots.
Another dish that is usually made with birds-eye chillies is tom yom, which uses lime juice and citrus leaves to offset the heat, and can contain either meat or fish. Strangely, the meal is considered to be refreshing, as it helps diners to cool down by making them sweat.